Take a Leave From Raking

Leaves provide multiple benefits to your landscape. While you have several options to get rid of them, it might be simpler to just allow them to lie wherever they may fall.

The leaves are steadily falling and you’re probably pondering whether to rake, mow or just ignore them. While you have several options to get rid of them, it might be simpler — and more beneficial — to just let them stay where they may fall.

Leaves provide multiple benefits to your landscape. For starters, they supply an almost endless supply of essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Moreover, they supply simple and complex carbon chains to the soil, which provide food and energy to a variety of macro and micro organisms. Without leaves, trees would soon run out of the building blocks to make their own food.

This is not to say that leaves don’t have some downsides. For those enamored with large expanses of turf, a steady supply of leaves on top of the grass will be detrimental. Live oak leaves, in particular, decompose at a rate similar to the proverbial “molasses in January” and can quickly smother a lawn.

Here are some options to maximize leaf benefits and minimize detriments:
  • Rake up repeatedly and dispose in the proper receptacle. This option benefits only those who require outdoor exercise.
  • Rake up and dispose in a compost bin. Exercise, reducing landfill input and creating organic fertilizer are the chief benefits. You may have to speed up decomposition with small amounts of fertilizer and moisture.
  • Mow over the leaves and then mow again. You have all of the above benefits plus added nutrients for the tree and the lawn, and most importantly for some folks, reduced winter weed population.

So keep the mower out of storage for just a bit longer. Sharpen the blades and mow, mow, mow those leaves.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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