Fall Yard Cleanup Tips
Why should we
"leave the leaves"
in our yards every fall?
🍃 Plants capture energy from the sun and convert it into food. Insects may eat the plants and then serve as a food source for other larger animals or they may overwinter in fallen leaves in the form of cocoons or pupa.
Leaving the leaves keeps these insects safe and promotes the health of other species who rely on them. The more we can protect a wide variety of insects and encourage biodiversity in this bottom bottom rung of the food web, the more we can bolster the health of our beautiful pollinators and all who depend on them.
🍃 Leaves that stay on your property return the nutrients that were taken up by the trees’ roots back to the soil. They keep moisture in the soil. It’s cheaper and better than mulch!
🍃 Leaves help sequester carbon in the soil.
🍁 🐝 🐛 🦋 🐌 🐦🍁
How to manage fallen leaves responsibly:
Ideally, we should try to leave leaves where they fall, but that's not always practical. Here are more ways to leave the leaves:
🍁 Gather fallen leaves in strategic places - Rake leaves from areas of lawn into garden beds and around perennials and the base of trees. You can make this habitat for birds and insects look intentional by laying out a border of sticks after you rake the leaves where you want them.
🍁 Level up your home composting game - Use leaves in your backyard compost bin.
🍁 Create nutritious leaf-mold - Use even more extras by turning them into leaf-mold, which is very nutritious for plants/soil (will take about a year, and you'll need something like an aerated garbage bag or small fenced in bin)
🍁 Speed up the decomposing process by shredding - Shred remaining leaves or use a mulching mower so that they decompose faster. Note: This isn’t going to protect insects living in the leaves, but it will promote returning nutrients back to the soil.
🍁 Set out any extras for the Town to pick up and compost - All that and still more leaves?! If you’ve done all of the above and still have more leaves, put the rest out to the curb for collection. The Town will pick them up to be composted-which is better than bagging leaves up and putting them in the landfill where they would just generate methane.
More resources for healthy yards
🍂 Doug's Five Easy Steps for Beginners from Doug Tallamy/Homegrown National Park
🍂 Alternatives to grass from Cornell Turfgrass Program
🍂 Managing Fallen Leaves from Iowa State Extension
🍂 Leaf Mold: Nature’s Compost from Epic Gardening
🍂 Leaf Composting guide from Tompkins County CCE
🍂 Home Composting guide from Cornell Waste Management Institute
🍂 Leaf Mold Vs. Compost: Which Option Is Better? from Will it Compost?
leave the leaves?
You're in good company!
Here are just a few others who know it’s a good idea:
National Wildlife Federation
for Invertebrate Conservation
The Wild Seed Project
National Audubon Society
Sierra Club (Ohio)
The Nature Conservancy, Canada
Healthy Yards Monroe County