There are more pros than cons when it comes to raking leaves and cleaning up your yard.

The Pros & Cons of Raking Leaves

by Casandra Maier

During the autumn months, the leaves of deciduous tree begin to fall to the ground. Depending on the number of trees located on or near your property, you may see very little or lots of leaf litter. Traditionally, this means only one thing -- it’s time to get out the rake. However, while raking leaves may increase the aesthetic value of your property and help your lawn to remain healthy in most cases, there are some instances in which raking leaves has a few drawbacks.

1. Aesthetic Value

If there are many deciduous trees on or near your property, chances are the amount of leaves in your back in front yard will be many and thickly layered, creating an eyesore. Raking leaves improves the neatness, tidiness and overall aesthetic value of your yard. In some cases, to increase the overall aesthetic value of your neighborhood, communities and homeowner’s associations may stipulate that you keep a tidy landscape, which includes raking leaves. Additionally, raking leaves is best to avoid complaints from your neighbors, as un-raked leaves blow onto their property with wind and rainstorms.

2. Keeping a Healthy Lawn

Raking your leaves during the fall is the best way to ensure that your lawn remains healthy and free from pests and diseases, especially if you are dealing with large quantities of leaves. Thick layers of leaves covering your turf blocks your grass from receiving the air, nutrients, sunlight and water that it needs to remain healthy. While many grass cultivars begin to go dormant during the fall months, some cool-season varieties do not experience dormancy during this time. In this case, your turf being covered for long periods of time results in dead or dying patches of grass. Additionally, as it rains, thick piles of leaves get wet and begin harboring molds, mildew and other fungus. It is best to rake your leaves so they do not create a breeding ground for pests and diseases which may kill your grass or harm other landscape plants.

3. Wasted Energy for Small Quantities

Raking leaves is a labor-intensive chore. While it may be good exercise, you are most likely wasting your energy if there is only a thin layer or small amount of leaf litter in your yard. Leaves are a natural and organic material that break down and decompose with time. You do not have to worry about small quantities of leaves harming your lawn. Additionally, if you allow small amounts of leaf litter to naturally decompose on your lawn, it will provide organic matter and nutrients that improve the quality of your soil. To speed the decomposition, and to ensure that you do not harm your turf grass during the process, shred and break the leaves down into smaller pieces with a lawn mower. By the time spring arrives, there should be no sign of decomposing leaves on your lawn.

4. Groundwater Pollution

Raking leaves turns into a negative activity if the leaf litter is not properly bagged and disposed of in a timely fashion. In some communities, workers and sanitation services are responsible for picking up piles of loose leaves. In other cases, you may decide to save on the intensity of your labor and bag your leaf piles at later time. This causes problems if there is a heavy storm between the time that you rake and when the leaves are disposed of. Winds and rain are capable of carrying and dropping large quantities of loose leaves into the groundwater and nearby aquatic ecosystems, where they block sunlight and oxygen and promote an overgrowth of algae. This not only disrupts the ecosystem, but can cause fish to die.

5. Family Fun and Other Considerations

Turn raking leaves into an opportunity for fun by getting the whole family involved. The kids will have an incentive to rake leaves in the fun they can have jumping into large piles once the task is complete. If you have a large yard or property to rake, consider using a leaf blower to gather your leaves into a general area before raking. Always bag and dispose of your leaves in an environmentally friendly, biodegradable bag or container. If you have a compost pile, shredded, dried leaves are an excellent source of carbon.

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