Fall means a variety of things to a variety of people. Fall can mean chilly nights by an outdoor fire, pumpkin and apple picking, sweaters, corduroys, fixing soup for dinner, hot cider, and beautiful autumnal colors in rich reds, golds, browns.
Or for some, it can mean long afternoons of getting all those leaves off the lawn, bagging them up, and waiting for the garbage to pick them up. The EPA estimates that 8 million tons of leaves went to the landfill in 2005. These leaves being in the landfill, means that it doesn’t break down since there is no oxygen to allow it. It also takes a lot of resources to take all those hefty plastic and paper bags to the landfill (gasoline, taxpayer’s money, production of lawn bags, your own money, your own time)
Leaves are actually a great asset to our landscape. Leaves are free fertilizer for your lawn, wonderful for protecting our plants over the winter, and is also great for beneficial insects and for birds next spring. When gardeners utilize it, we often call it ‘leaf litter’, but it is litter rich in nutrients that is great for our lawns and garden. Leaves contain twice the amount of beneficial nutrients as cow manure. Leaves also aerate and make better drainage for your soil. So, if your neighbor’s set out their bags of leaves this fall, scoup them up and add them to your yard!
I’ve never removed any leaves from my lawn, and my grass stays looking pretty good for never adding any other fertilizer or watering it. The grass under the trees for sure does better, and there’s a good chance it’s partly due to the leaf litter. Unless you have a huge amount of leaves (several inches deep), it is okay to leave the leaves; they will not kill your lawn. The lawn is about to become dormant for fall and it will not need as much sunlight.
It is absolutely fine to leave those leaves on your lawn and let them be. The absolute worst thing to do is to remove them and throw them away. There are several things you can do with those leaves if you feel like it’s going to negatively impact your lawn.
- Rake them out from the tree so it spreads a thinner layer over the lawn.
- Rake them and put them on your flower bed to help over winter plants and to use as mulch.
- Mulch them with a lawn mower
- Gather them and make an excellent free compost. Do your research to know how to make either leaf compost or leaf mold. You also need to know the nature of the leaves from your type of tree. Nutrient levels in leaves can be very different and some leaves do not decompose as well as others, such as Pin Oak. Here is a good article from Planet Natural to guide you.