Why you should ‘leave the leaves’ in your yard and garden

Before beginning the never-ending battle of clearing fallen leaves from your yard, you might want to consider leaving them alone.

David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, said removing leaves from your yard or garden deprives the area of nutrients while simultaneously destroying a wildlife habitat.  

“Fallen leaves offer a double benefit,” Mizejewski said in a post on the organization’s website. “Leaves form a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil as it breaks down. Why spend money on mulch and fertilizer when you can make your own?”

According to a report from Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension, leaves are rich in minerals like potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. 

Removing the leaves also takes away an important habitat for animals ranging from turtles to butterflies. 

Leaving the leaves isn’t just adding to the vitality of your yard and garden — it’s helping the whole environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said leaves and other yard debris make up more than 13% of the nation’s solid waste, which comes out to 33 million tons a year. 

Instead of raking them, shred your leaves to use as mulch in garden beds or combine them with grass clippings and other greenery to make compost, the post said. 

“The less time you spend raking leaves,” Mizejewski said, “the more time you’ll have to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and the wildlife that visits your garden.”