October 2019: Leave the Leaves

Every autumn, we’re treated to a resplendent show of changing leaf color in our landscape. As colder weather approaches, deciduous trees stop producing chlorophyll. The green fades, and what’s left behind is the true leaf color. 

Of course, this is followed by the fall of leaves everywhere, which is often followed by the cacophony of leaf blowers. 

Leaves act as a natural fertilizer in ecosystems, particularly for the trees they fall from. More than that, they provide a protective ecosystem for a variety of animals. Salamanders, toads, shrews, box turtles, wood frogs, worms, millipedes, and tons of insects utilize leaf litter. Insects like fireflies, luna moths, great spangled fritillaries, and wooly bear caterpillars will use the leaf litter to survive the winter. The eastern red bat, while migrating from Canada to the southern US, will use leaf litter for protection during cold spells. 

Heavy leaf layers can suppress a lawn. One solution? Reduce your lawn size and use the leaves in garden beds. They’ll smother weeds and fertilize the plants, while continuing the ecosystem services required by wildlife. 

You can also mulch leaves with a mulching lawn mower, and take advantage of a free, slow-release fertilizer. 

Refrain from using leaf blowers – they not only add pollution to the air, but add to noise pollution. They also erode the top layer of your lawn over time. 

Often, people are concerned about ticks, so cut their lawns very short and remove leaves. By landscaping your yard to attract beneficial pollinators and birds, you  can control tick populations. Learn more here: https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/repel-ticks

To see what an expert horticulturalist has to say about leaves and lawn, check out this blog post by Kim Eierman: https://www.ecobeneficial.com/2018/10/put-rake-leaves-can-landscape/