Good news: You don't need to rake your leaves. Experts explain why

Autumn is here, which could mean that the leaves in your yard have begun to change color and are beginning to fall to the ground.
If you're thinking of adding raking your yard and bagging up leaves onto your weekend to-do lists, think again. Experts warn that raking leaves and removing them can cause damage to your lawn and the environment.

You can fertilize your lawn, shelter animals, and reduce landfill emissions by leaving at least some leaves behind. This is what you need to know in order to manage the leaves on your lawn for this fall.

What can I do to help my lawn?

The natural fertilizer that fall leaves can provide is a natural fertilizer. This is what David Mizejewski (naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation) explained to USA TODAY.

He said that the leaves fall around the roots of the plants. They do this by suppressing weeds and other plants from competing with them.

He said that they slowly decompose and become compost at the base of the shrub's tree, just above the root zone. There, they return nutrients to the plant, which it can then recycle or reuse next spring.

Maxim Schlossberg, associate professor of turfgrass nutrition at Penn State, said that mowing your lawn can help break down leaves and provide nutrients for your grass.

Because they are smaller, they can be more quickly decomposed and dismantled by microorganisms. He also said that the entire recycling of nutrients is more rapid.

Why should I bag leaves?

You might reconsider how you rake leaves from your yard and bag them before throwing them away.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, landfills received 10.5 million tonnes of yard trimmings in 2018. This includes leaves.

Mizejewski explained how organic matter, such as leaves, can be sent to landfills and broken down to form methane. This greenhouse gas contributes to climate changes.

Continue the story

Unfortunately, at this time of the year, large volumes of leaves end up in landfills and create all that terrible greenhouse gas. We can do more to keep organic material from going to landfills.

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Climate change makes it more difficult for leaf chasers to chase autumn foliage.

What does my leaf impact on the environment?

According to Mizejewski the layer of leaves on your lawn can be a very important habitat for wildlife, creating an entire ecosystem.

He estimated that there are thousands of species that live in the leaf layer. He said that most of them are invertebrates. Think of earthworms, little pillbugs, and all the other little creatures that live in that leaf layer. Also higher up in the food chain are salamanders.

Leaf layers are a common place for caterpillars, providing food for birds.

What happens if every leaf is gone from your property? Mizejewski stated that you have just removed and bagged up the food source for the birds and put it in the landfill.

Schlossberg warned that if you plan to blow leaves into the street from your yard, it can cause disruptions in drains and water supplies.

He said that foreign debris can clog the grates and prevent water from flowing off the street's surface.

The leaves can also endanger the water quality and sensitive species in rivers and streams where they are drained. According to Schlossberg, this can impact the water quality and sensitive species that are adapted to these waterways.

He said that it was a bit like a garbage dump. It persists today and can still be problematic.

How can I ever rake leaves?

Experts agree that if your lawn is covered in leaves, you can remove them once the weather cools.

Mizejewski suggested that leaves be placed in gardens or raked into larger piles and let them naturally compost.

If you are unable to remove every leaf that falls onto your property from time to time, don't. He said that there are great and easy ways to deal with them.

Schlossberg advised people to rake leaves or use a lawnmower to remove them if they expect snow soon.

"Once you have snow, you won't mow. That snow will facilitate the matting and prevent leaves from being moved by wind. He said that this is the type of situation you want to avoid.

Experts recommend that you consider all the animals and plants in your yard when considering what to do with your lawn's leaves.

Mizejewski stated that each of us has the opportunity to make a personal impact on nature.

This article first appeared on USA TODAY. Experts explain why you shouldn't.