Fall garden cleanup is an endless drag. No matter what you do, those dang leaves … Just. Keep. Falling!
But good news, lazy homeowners: Raking has been declared overrated, harmful, and all-around terrible by the National Wildlife Federation.
The group put out a blog post pointing out that removing fallen leaves from your property will “not only harm the environment but rob your garden of nutrients while destroying wildlife habitat.”
Yeah, that’s right, that’s a triple-bad on your neighbor’s impeccable, leaf-free lawn: The environment suffers, the garden suffers, and small animals like chipmunks and butterflies may die. What are you people, monsters?
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All drama aside, the NWF’s point is that raked leaves that get sent to landfills account for 13 percent of the nation’s solid waste, or 33 million tons of organic matter, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Without enough oxygen to decompose, the leaves release harmful greenhouse gas methane.
And by the way, burning your leaves is a no-no, too. Purdue University says it contributes to air pollution.
Here’s what the NWF says is good about letting those fallen leaves lie:
1) Leave the leaves, save the wildlife. “Critters ranging from turtles and toads to birds, mammals and invertebrates rely on leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material. Many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring,” they said.
2) Fallen leaves benefit your garden … and save you money on mulch and fertilizer. “Leaves form a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil as it breaks down,” they say. Chop them with a mulching mower or combine them with grass clippings to create compost, the group advises.
3) Less leaves in landfills = less methane gas. Admittedly, a very thick layer of dead leaves could harm your lawn (under certain conditions), so if you’ve still just got too many, the NWF suggests that you “share them with neighbors, friends, schools, and others. Some communities pick up leaves and make compost to sell or give away.” Or just rake them into out-of-the-way piles to use as compost come spring.
Honestly, though? We’re just happy to have a valid excuse to spend more time simply enjoying nature instead of cleaning it up. And of course, to look down our noses at those too-perfect lawns.
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