Question Your World: Should We Rake Leaves?

Posted: December 2, 2014

As autumn makes its presence known, we start to see a lot of leaves falling to the ground. This is a beautiful indicator of seasonal change and these leaves often get swept aside in order to clean up the landscape. Recently lawn maintenance was viewed through the lens of science and the big question had to be asked, should we rake leaves?

The ultimate purpose of science is to empower folks to better understand the natural world and to hopefully make things easier for us in the process. Well, science has delivered on the goods once again and this time, it's helping take one more thing off our seasonal "to-do list".

Recently scientists looked at the fallen leaves in our yards and asked people not to rake them up and throw them out. These leaves spend the spring and summer season up on the trees and, as this time of year approaches, we start to see them hanging out on the ground more than up on branches. Trees play a vital role in all the ecosystems around the world. So, it comes as no surprise that leaves too play a very important role in our local ecology.

Traditionally, we would pick a nice weekend or two and rake up all the crisp fallen leaves, corral them into piles, put them in garbage bags, and enjoy the reward of a clean and tidy front yard. Well, according to folks at the National Wildlife Federation, this year you can leave your rakes in the shed. These eco-conscious scientists want the rest of the world to know that fallen leaves serve a valuable purpose and tossing them out disturbs the natural balance that is your front yard.

Salamanders, box turtles, moths, butterflies, snakes, spiders, and many other animals rely on these fallen leaves as a part of their annual life processes. Once the leaves hit the ground, they no longer provide energy for the trees, but they do become great shelters, places to lay eggs, and in some cases, meals for various animals that are all a part of our day-to-day world's ecosystem.

Now, I know what you're probably wondering - how do I make my yard look good without tossing out all those leaves? Scientists are encouraging folks who insist on cleaning up their yards to collect the leaves and use them in rings around the base of trees and plants or in gardens and flowerbeds. The yard will be clean, but the leaves can still be used by animals and also as a natural compost.

With all that said, the ideal solution is to do what nature intended and just leaf them alone!