glyphs-new

Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Plant's Health

Leaves provide many benefits and they even offset some harmful behaviors. Here are just a few reasons to leave your leaves.

A brightly colored leaf spins from its perch on a branch and lands smack dab in the middle of your windshield as your head out to work in the morning. Your first thought is to immediately reshuffle the next weekend to find time to rake and bag those pesky leaves.

But what if we told you that you do not have to rake this year. In fact, it will be significantly better for the plants and the creatures in your yard to leave the leaves.

Leaves provide many benefits and they even offset some harmful behaviors. Here are just a few reasons to leave your leaves:

Part of the Tree’s Natural Cycle

Leaf mulch is part of a tree’s natural cycle. It is nature’s way of recycling important nutrients and protecting the tree’s roots during the harsh winter months. Leaf mulch also fortifies soil by providing organic matter, which is the foundation of healthy soil.

Free mulch

We have already discussed the benefits of mulch for your trees and shrubs, so why not consider leaves as an option? They are free, readily available, and provide excellent organic matter.

If you find the look of leaves unappealing, especially as they turn brown, you can rake them into your mulch beds and cover them in pine straw or triple-shred mulch. Doing this has the double benefit of adding nutrients to the soil and providing a consistent, aesthetically pleasing look.

Reduces the Need for Fertilizers

Substances such as nitrogen and phosphorus that make up typical fertilizers pollute waterways, cause beneficial fungi to die off, compromise a tree’s root system, deplete the functionality of the soil (thereby making nutrients inaccessible to the tree), and make trees and shrubs more susceptible to pests and disease. By leaving the leaves, you build the health of the soil. Your trees will receive all the nutrients they need without the addition of fertilizer to your soil. Plus, you will help protect our environment from unnecessary harm.

Prevents Additional Production of Methane Gas

If you rake leaves, put them in plastic bags, and send them to a landfill, they take years, instead of just a season, to break down. When kept in an anaerobic environment, leaves produce methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more harmful than CO2. By simply leaving the leaves, you reduce your waste footprint and prevent the generation of methane gas.

Beneficial to Insects and Small Animals

Many insects including Luna moths, swallowtail butterflies, and monarchs rely on leaf litter to camouflage their cocoons or provide cover during the winter. Bumblebee queens spend the winter only a few inches into the soil, so leaves add an extra layer of protection. Small beetles and snails use leaves as hiding spots from birds and squirrels searching for a snack.

Leaves provide essential organic matter to the soil, are free and easy to obtain, reduce the need for harmful fertilizers, prevent additional methane gas from being produced, and benefit wildlife. Additionally, trees rely on their leaves as part of their natural cycle. Trees need their leaves both on their branches and on the ground. So this year, put down the rake and leave the leaves.

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
What is Tree Care?
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Plant's Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Stump Removal - The Mighty Stump Grinder!
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb