Leave Your Leaves!

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Best Investments in Sustainability

by Laura Parker Roerden

What’s better than something you do to help create a more sustainable earth and life? Something you simply stop doing; especially if it’s a chore in which you had previously invested time, money, and effort.

It turns out that the late fall chore of removing your leaves is not only bad for the earth, it’s bad for your lawn and gardens. Instead, hang up your rake and sit this fall out.

Simply do one last mowing of your leaf-littered grass. The mowing will mulch the leaves into tiny pieces that will provide several benefits to your lawn and gardens over the winter:

  1. As the leaves decompose they will add nutrients back into the soil, eliminating your need to do fertilizing come spring.
  2. Leaf litter provides cover for wildlife including chipmucks, turtles, and pollinators like moths and butterflies, whose larvae is also attached to the leaves.
  3. This ecosystem of micro-organisms, insects, and larvae within the leaf litter is an important base of the food chain that desirable backyard wildlife like song birds and butterflies rely on.
  4. The leaf litter will act as mulch, suppressing weed growth in your lawn.

Your IN-action, in this case, will help the earth in several other ways. Fertilizer run-off from land, which enters rivers and ends up in the sea, is responsible for dead zones in aquatic ecosystems. The extra nutrients of the added fertilizer causes too much algae to bloom, which as it decomposes takes oxygen out of the system, causing fish kills. More than 33 million tons of waste in landfills is simply bags of discarded leaves, which when wrapped in plastic, are unable to provide any nourishment to the ecosystem. You could say, that leaves discarded are entirely wasted, as nature prefers recycling and always relies on cycles of death feeding resurrection.

Fall is such a beautiful, if fleeting, time of year. Instead of the many hours of raking and bagging your leaves, use this new found time to go apple picking or drink cocoa in front of a fire outside with your loved ones. Or simply sit and watch the lengthening shadows and enjoy a kaleidoscope turn as wildlife from late fall are replaced by winter’s.

We leave our leaves, and just this weekend I noticed a family of 9 stunningly bright eastern bluebirds enjoying the fruits of a chokeberry bush on the edge of our lawn, who as they competed for the berries sent off flickers of indigo like a single jewel with many facets.

Price Comparison: Save $50-$100 in Leaf Bags and Fertilizer plus 3-6 hours of Labor
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Laura Parker Roerden

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.




Published by Laura Parker Roerden

Laura Parker Roerden shares a love of what nature can teach us. Writer, public speaker and supportor of youth to boldly know and save the wilds. She is the founding director of Ocean Matters and a fourth generation farmer and thinks today’s young people are reason to be hopeful about the many environmental problems facing us. She lives on a family farm in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys, and an assortment of fruit trees and farm animals.

4 thoughts on “Leave Your Leaves!

  1. I love the idea of leaving your leaves! Do you rake any of your leaves at all, like the first batch batch to fall, or just leave them all to decompose? I know which answer I’m hoping for….:)

    1. Because we’re on the top of a hill, the wind does a pretty good job of moving them for us throughout the year. So I only have an issue in the fall when the leaves are really on the ground. In the summer, when your lawn isn’t dormant, you’d really want for the sun to reach your lawn. So if you have a lot of green leaves, I’d remove them (but that’s a guess, I can’t find any “expert” opinion on that.)

  2. I’ve used added a layer of those leaves to my raised beds each year to create new soil and feed the worms and microorganisms. They act as compost. Most of them are disintegrated by spring and I can dig them into the first few inches of soil

    Now our home is in the middle of a redwood forest and I am surrounded by redwood leaf litter. I miss the oak tree leaves.

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