As fall rolls around, it’s time to dig out your plaid shirts and watch Lucy trick Charlie Brown into slipping into a pile of leaves.

For most Boulder homeowners, raking is an expected step in caring for your yard in the fall. Raking can keep your lawn from suffocating under the dense leaf waste, and keeps your yard looking fresh and manicured.

But there are many reasons why you may not want to rake up your leaves this year. Raking leaves is more harmful to the environment than leaving them, and raking costs you extra time that you could be using to watch your favorite football team or brewing up a batch of extra-hot chili as the days grow colder.

Here are the pros and cons of raking your lawn this fall, and why leaving your leafs on the ground can be helpful for the environment (and save you lots of time and effort!)

Benefits of Raking Your Lawn

Here are some reasons why raking has become a traditional cornerstone of autumn yardwork for homeowners:

Lawns Need to Breathe

Leaves can block the water, nutrients, and oxygen that your grass needs to prosper. Even though your grass will be dead for the winter season, it will be harder for it to start back up in spring if there’s a thick layer of leaves holding moisture and blocking the sun throughout the winter.

If the leaves get matted, it can be even worse for your lawn. This makes an even denser barrier between your lawn and some of the things it needs to go on.

Early Invitation for Pests

Accumulated leaf waste can attract pests and bugs who usually move inside building like your home once winter comes around. If you do encounter any problems with uninvited guests, try making bamboo or hose traps, or trying one of these DIY bug-preventing sprays.

Fungus problems like snow mold and brown patch can also arise if too many leaves fall and create a dense, wet layer on top of your lawn. All this extra moisture is a breeding ground for fungi.

Benefits of Not Raking Your Lawn

Trees and their leaves have been a part of the ecosystem since the beginning of time. Letting nature do its thing may be best for your yard and save you some hard work while you’re at it.

Here are some of the benefits of not raking up your lawn this fall.

Leaves Become Waste in Landfills

Leaves decompose naturally in your yard, which means they won’t take up space in landfills elsewhere. When combined with other organic waste in landfills, leaf leftovers can decompose into methane, one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

Plus, disposing of your leaves also requires you to use plastic trash bags, contributing to yet more plastic waste. So skipping the raking this year can be a double-win for the environment.

Helps Your Lawn and Saves You Money

The earth’s ecosystem naturally breaks down dead plants and leaves to prepare for winter. When you let your leaves lie, they can become a natural fertilizer for your lawn, acting as a great source of food and nutrients for plants.

Decomposing leaves help protect your lawns’ roots systems, keep the soil healthy and moist, and make it less likely for weeds to grow in. Leaves are a great source of carbon and nitrogren for all kinds of plants, so they will feed the grass as they breakdown.

The leaves will keep microbes in the soil from using up all the grass’ nitrogen. The leaves hold in some moisture that would otherwise escape easily into the air.

In other words, leaves build soil fertility to keep your plants healthy all year round, even when they’re dormant.

The Ecosystem Relies on Leaves

Long before humans, the earth was equipped to take care of its own waste throughout the changing seasons. By removing leaves, you’re removing a natural and needed part of all kinds of lifecycles.

Many butterflies and moths as larvae or caterpillars live in leaf litter. Getting rid of the debris eliminates these creatures’ habitat. Birds also look for food in leaf piles, so removing the leaves can make birds less likely to visit your corner of the world.

While these may seem like trivial details, any small form of wildlife conservation can help animals survive and flourish in a world that humans have made hard for them to grow.

Leaves Can Clog Sewers

Leaves blown into the street can clog sewers and important water pathways.

Because of their nutrients, these pathways also become a breeding ground for algae, which is particularly toxic for water that we reuse for drinking water.

What to Do With Your Leaves (If You Do Get Rid of Them)

No matter what you do, you will probably have to rake and get rid of at least some of your leaves. Leafing them alone (see what we did there?) benefits nature, but too much can smother your grass.

You can do your part in helping the planet and your yard by avoiding using plastic trash bags and throwing your leaves away with the weekly garbage.

Here’s what to do instead:

Mow

Mow your lawn as you would regularly during the summer. This is a great method if you choose to keep the leaves on your lawn, especially because mowing will help start the breaking-down process and distribute the leaf parts more evenly.

Spread in a Flowerbed or Around Plants

The shredded leaves from mowing will turn into a festive lawn-confetti that you can use to nourish the plants in your yard or inside.

The leaves will slowly decompose over the surface of your plants’ soil and release nutrients throughout the season. The leaves will protect their roots from harsh weather and keep them fed at the same time.

Compost

If you have a compost bin or composting program where you live, adding your leaves to your compost pile is a great option if you still decide you want to get rid of leaf litter. Leaves are great for compost, and can help your pile attract worms and prevent disease.

The leaves will break down along with the other organic matter and food you’ve been collecting.  Your compost will become a great soil down the line with your leaves’ help!

Keeping up with yard maintenance can be time-consuming and exhausting. Here at GSC, we understand the value of a healthy home, and are here to help, no matter the time of year.

All aspects of your yard require their own intricate routines and maintenance. In Colorado especially, winter can come quicker than you may expect with sudden freezes and snows.

The sudden temperature drops can hurt your plants and make it harder for them to grow back healthy in the spring. Your trees are important havens for critters in the cold and give your home a sense of elegance and life.

Check out our guide to winter tree care >