Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil
We all grew up seeing our parents and grandparents rake leaves during the fall. So, it follows that we do the same now that we’ve grown up. But, have you ever asked yourself, “should your rake the leaves?”
Anyone you ask will have their own opinion. It also surprised us to know that many people who rake the leaves in their front and back yards do so only because it keeps the lawn neat and tidy, nothing else.
Out of curiosity, we sought out the answer to the long asked question. “Why you should rake your leaves?” And, if you actually should? Or, is it optional?
Reasons Not to Rake Leaves in Your Yard
This is probably the easiest to answer so we’ll start with it. Other than it’s a hassle to do and nobody really wants to do it, there are a few better reasons.
1. Leaves become waste and take up space in landfills
You may not be aware of it but tons of leaves that are raked every year go into landfills. And, the sheer amount of leaves increases the total amount of solid waste there.
According to a recent study, raking leaves has resulted in a massive 33 million tons of yard debris.
Wow! That’s a lot.
In addition to the solid waste, there’s also the plastic bags and non-biodegradable material you use to package the leaves to throw in the trash. Those bags take decades to break down.
2. You can get hurt
Raking leaves may look easy and it generally is. But, because your mind is wishing it was somewhere else most of the time you’re raking, there’s a good chance you may get hurt doing so.
In most cases, the injuries are minor. But, there are some health hazards of raking that aren’t too obvious until later on.
One of them is back pain. Raking requires bending over and pulling piles of leaves. This is tedious and laborious which can wreak havoc on your lower back and knees.
If you already have back problems, it’s going to be a chore just to rake a few leaves.
3. Leaves protect grass and other plants under them
During the very hot or cold seasons, leaves provide shelter from the sun or cool weather. This gives grass an extra protective layer to shelter them from the harsh rays to cold.
This helps keep your lawn healthy. Extreme weather can harm grass and other plant life. So, having some leaves on top of them keeps them from directly experiencing this.
4. Leaves decompose and become mulch and fertilizer
Decomposition causes leaves to slowly break down into mulch and fertilizer that helps plants grow. In doing so, they help you save a bit of money.
But, while it does help, you can’t rely on leaves to do everything for you. So, even if the leaves provide some nutrients for your lawn, you’ll still need to provide it with fertilizer and water to grow.
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Why You Should Rake Your Leaves
From above the two most compelling arguments for not raking are:
- Dead leaves help fertilize the soil
- Throwing them in the trash only adds to the tons of solid waste
That said, while leaves protect the grass and plants from harsh weather, it also blocks them from direct sunlight. Since sun exposure is one of the most important elements of healthy plants, that’s a big no-no.
Lack of sunshine not only prevents your plants from growing, it also causes them to wilt and die. This results in bald patches in your lawn or brown spots where grass is not able to grow.
Raking leaves also allows you to directly water the plants and the soil to absorb fertilizer that you spread.
In addition to the sun, water and nourishment, air is another thing that plants need. They need to be able to “breathe”. That is, have enough space to themselves.
Leaves that are left over your entire lawn also can invite pests or cause disease. And, they prevent some plants to growing properly because they cover them.
Should You or Shouldn’t You Rake Leaves in Your Yard?
Ultimately, it’s really up to you. Both sides have their arguments.
On our end, we kind of do both.
We do rake our lawn to make sure it looks neat and tidy. For us, raking also allows us to check on the progress of all the plants visually. This makes it easy to see if there’s anything wrong.
Being able to do this lets us get ahead of any disease or pest infestation because it spreads.
But, instead of raking all the leaves packing them into a plastic bag and throwing them into the landfill, we do something else.
We set them aside to a part of our garden where they don’t become a nuisance visually or for plant growth. But, at the same time, help improve the overall health of our garden.
In doing so, we do keep the leaves on the side because they become food for earth worms. This attracts them from under the surface of our garden and bring the leaves down with them beneath the ground to eat.
The worm food is later converted into earthworm castings (waste) that works like fertilizer because it is rich in nitrogen. Earthworm poop if you may call it makes the soil richer to help our garden and the flowers in it grow better.