The Trend of ‘Leaving the Leaves’ in Gardens and Lawns: Is It Beneficial?

by Gabriel Martinez
Leave the Leaves Movement

The ‘Leave the Leaves’ movement, which has been gaining traction in recent times, advocates for a new approach to dealing with fallen leaves. This movement encourages homeowners to let fallen leaves decompose naturally in their gardens and lawns rather than bagging them for landfill disposal. The decomposition process transforms these leaves into nutrient-rich organic matter, beneficial for soil health. Additionally, this practice provides a winter habitat for hibernating pollinators and other valuable insects.

However, it’s crucial to weigh various factors, such as the type of leaves and their location. For instance, it’s advisable not to allow whole leaves to accumulate on walkways, which could pose slipping hazards, or on lawns, where they might foster disease.

In the case of lawns, a dense layer of leaves can be detrimental to turf grass, especially in snowy regions where trapped moisture between the leaves and the lawn can lead to mold and fungal problems. Conversely, in snow-free areas, a heavy blanket of leaves might smother the grass by blocking sunlight and moisture.

A common practice has been to shred leaves with a mulching mower, allowing the small pieces to nourish the soil as they decompose. However, this method could inadvertently harm hibernating insects and larvae essential for the ecosystem. Instead, I now recommend gathering leaves from lawns and dispersing them in garden beds, maintaining a maximum depth of about two inches. Adding a layer of compost can further aid in decomposition. By spring, these leaves usually break down significantly.

Another use for leaves is in creating leaf mold, a special compost made exclusively from leaves. This involves piling the leaves, adding nitrogen fertilizer, and periodically watering to prevent drying. This process, though slower, results in a valuable soil amendment.

However, it’s important to be cautious with certain leaves, like those from black walnut trees, which contain juglone, a chemical harmful to many plants. Also, avoid using thick or broad leaves like oak for mulching, as their slow decomposition might hinder sunlight and water penetration to the soil.

In essence, fallen leaves are a natural resource, offering protection and nourishment to soil and wildlife, much like in a forest ecosystem. Therefore, it’s worth considering their ecological benefits rather than simply discarding them.

Jessica Damiano, an award-winning writer known for the Weekly Dirt Newsletter and regular gardening columns for The AP, brings gardening insights directly to your inbox. Sign up to receive these tips and advice weekly.

For a comprehensive array of AP gardening stories, visit https://bigbignews.net/search?q=gardening#nt=navsearch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Leave the Leaves Movement

What is the ‘Leave the Leaves’ movement?

The ‘Leave the Leaves’ movement encourages people to let fallen leaves decompose naturally in their gardens and lawns, rather than bagging them for landfill disposal. This practice enriches the soil, provides habitat for hibernating insects, and improves overall garden health.

Why should whole leaves not be left on lawns or walkways?

Whole leaves should not be left on walkways due to the risk of slipping hazards and on lawns because they can cause disease. Thick layers of leaves on grass can also block sunlight and moisture, leading to mold and fungal issues.

What is the recommended method for dealing with leaves on lawns?

Instead of leaving whole leaves on the lawn, it’s recommended to shred them with a mulching mower. This allows the leaf fragments to fall between grass blades, decomposing into a rich soil conditioner without harming hibernating insects.

How can leaves be used to benefit garden beds?

Leaves can be raked or blown off the lawn and spread in garden beds, ideally in a layer no more than 2 inches deep. Adding compost can speed up decomposition, and by spring, the leaves usually break down considerably.

What is leaf mold and how is it made?

Leaf mold is a type of compost made entirely from leaves. It’s created by piling up leaves, adding nitrogen fertilizer, and periodically watering the pile to prevent drying out. This process results in a nutritious soil amendment beneficial for mulching or adding to planting holes and containers.

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GardenGuru November 13, 2023 - 2:53 am

Great article! Just one point, you didn’t mention how different types of leaves might affect the soil differently. Some are more acidic than others.

Linda Green November 13, 2023 - 4:47 am

realy like the idea of leaf mold gonna try it this fall, sounds like a great way to recycle and help the garden

TommyG November 13, 2023 - 9:10 am

always wondered why my lawn was suffering, never thought about the leaves causing problems thanks for the insight

BeckyS November 13, 2023 - 8:22 pm

i love gardening and this is such a helpful article, thank you! gonna pass this along to my fellow garden club members 🙂

NatureLover November 14, 2023 - 1:59 am

not sure about leaving leaves on the lawn, seems like it could get messy? but i like the idea of it being natural and good for insects


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