Fall is just around the corner. Get out your scarves, your pumpkin spice lattes, and your Halloween decorations! Dust off that rake and get ready to jump in a pile of leaves to hear that oh so satisfying CRUNCHHHH. Wait, what are we really supposed to do with all those leaves anyway?
Fallen leaves can actually pose an environmental threat if they are not dealt with properly. Leaving a blanket of leaves on your lawn will not only make your grass look unhealthy come spring, but it might kill it. Your grass needs sunlight even in the fall and winter. In fact, grass stores energy from the sun in its roots to use throughout winter. Leaving leaves on your lawn prevents the grass from getting that much needed energy.
Did you know that decaying leaves can also harbor disease? The diseases are host specific, meaning the disease only targets one species. For instance, if unattended fallen leaves harbor a disease that affects pine trees, deciduous trees may not be affected. However, the pine trees could become ill. By raking your leaves in the fall you can minimize the amount of disease you may encounter in the spring and summer.
In addition, leaves that are swept into the street often find their way into waterways. Too many leaves in waterways causes an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which are chemicals that are released upon decomposition. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous can cause algae growth and depletes the water of oxygen. This can negatively impact fish and other aquatic life.
Now you’re probably wondering what you should do with all those pesky leaves that are so important to rake. Besides making a leaf pile and jumping in it (obviously), it is crucial to dispose of them properly. Some townships will collect leaves, so reach out to your local municipality to find out if they will pick up yours. We recommend using compostable bags to contain the leaves. The best way to handle raked leaves is to compost them in a home compost pile. If you don’t have a home compost pile, reach out to neighbors who might. For all of our gardening aficionados, if you shred your leaves with your mulching lawn mower the shredded leaves can be used as mulch around perennials over the winter.
Written by Christa Fryling