Removing them sucks and blows. Why do it?

We don’t rake leaves anymore. And we sure as heck don’t remove them with a gas- or electric-powered blower, either.

We are the bane of our neighbors’ autumn existences. And we’re O.K. with that.

None of them has said anything to us about it yet, but it’s a pretty good bet what they’re thinking – “Lazy, good-fer-nothin’, non-leaf-clearin’, fallin’-behind-the-Joneses losers!” Or something along those lines.

When they walk or drive by our leaf-covered yard with frowny faces, we just smile and wave.

Photo of one yard full of leaves, the other without leaves
The border between our yard and the neighbors’.

Certainly doing less work and using time for more important or enjoyable things are wonderful side benefits, but those aren’t the reasons we forego sweat and toil on gorgeous, warm, sunny days that are all-too-fleeting to remove leaves that have fallen from our black walnut, birch or ash trees.

Here’s why we don’t do it:

  • Leaves provide natural organic matter and nutrients for your soil, lawn, trees, shrubs and other plants, especially if you cut them into smaller bits. Think mulch and compost, but absolutely free. Be sure to chop them up before winter so piled-up leaves don’t kill portions of the lawn. And please use an electric mower powered with renewable energy or renewable energy offsets to do the job. 
  • Fallen leaves suppress weed growth.
  • Leaves provide habitat and a food source for everything from earthworms to caterpillars to chipmunks, some of which become food for birds the following spring.
  • Leaves buried in landfills break down and form methane, a potent, climate-change-accelerating greenhouse gas.

If you absolutely must keep up with the Joneses, rake away. But whatever you do, please do not use a gas- or electric-powered blower to clear them. Apart from having a lawn in the first place (guilty), blowing leaves is one of the most illogical things humans can do on the planet, both figuratively and literally.

In addition to the excellent reasons to leave leaves rather than remove them, blowers burn more fossil fuels – gasoline or electricity generated in coal-fired plants – which contributes to global warming and climate change. Which, in turn, is already causing portions of our own ecosystem – Earth – to be uninhabitable.

“Big deal,” one might think. “A single blower isn’t gonna hurt anything much.” We could argue that point, but the real point is that with the other hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of homeowners, business owners, parks and apartment building managers all using blowers, too, it hurts a lot.

So kick back, watch the football game, take the dogs for a walk with someone special, cross something else off your bucket list, whatever… 

Just leave the leaves.

Additional Reading

USA Today – “Good news: You don’t need to rake your leaves. Experts explain why”

National Wildlife Federation – “What to do With Fallen Leaves”

Gardening Channel – “Scientists Say: Don’t Rake Leaves”

Treehugger – “Skip the Rake and Leave the Leaves for a Healthier, Greener Yard”

Good News Network – “Don’t Rake Those Leaves: Good for Your Yard, and Good For the Planet”

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4 Comments

  1. I agree with you. Leaves withered to fertilizer the soil so life beautifully begins again in Spring. The world got used to aesthetic and trying to present everything as nice that they forget the order of things. Exactly while we all are suffering global warming and climate change. And yes, we should never compare ourselves with our neighbors. A neat lawn doesn’t not equate to neat life.

  2. This post certainly struck a nerve.
    Is there anything quite so annoying as the sound of a leaf blower at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning? Certainly. There’s fingernails on a chalkboard, a jet engine winding up, the tone deaf person next door with no musical aptitude torturing a violin, a roaring chopped Harley shattering the peace of a pleasant al fresco lunch and Neil Young singing anything.
    In my area of California there aren’t nearly as many leaves on the ground as in, say, the Midwest. Still, when I walk the dog I love the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot, and I’m entertained watching Lexi chase after leaves being kicked around by a breeze.
    I live in a town that is rife with homeowners associations and if there’s anything that an HOA hates more than a basketball hoop over the driveway or a car parked in the same place for more than 36 hours, it’s leaves. So nearly everywhere I go I’m bound to see the landscaping boys blowing leaves into tidy little piles and dust into the air; dust that settles on cars that the owners subsequently decide need to be washed – here in drought stricken California.
    There’s a tendency in society, particularly suburban communities and I think particularly here in the Bay Area, to equate a uniform, orderly sterile notion of cleanliness to beauty. We like to exalt the beauty of nature as long as it doesn’t interfere with regulated tidiness.
    I think if the town fathers in our community had their way they would love the rows of trees along center divides and recreation paths all the more if they just didn’t shed those pesky leaves. Plastic trees perhaps?
    Thank you Martin, for pointing out another form of pollution that we rarely consider – except maybe at 7 in the morning on a Sunday, while listening to the guy next door torturing a violin in accompaniment to Nell Young.

Let me know what you think!