Why you shouldn't rake your leaves

(KFVS) - It's that time of the year again. The air is getting cooler, the days shorter, and the leaves explode with autumn colors of yellows, reds, oranges, and every color in between. What people generally don't like about all of this is the work that comes after. Raking up the leaves.

However, environmental experts say you're actually harming the environment in a number of ways when you do so.

Starting with natural decomposition, SIU Soil and Plant Systems grad student, Amanda Weidhuner said you're robbing your lawn of valuable nutrients when you rake up your leaves.

"Your trees are taking nutrients from the soil, which is being recycled into your leaf, which needs to be put back in the soil and you're removing it from that situation," she said.

In fact, she said by not raking up your leaves and letting your yard get those extra nutrients, your grass will be greener after enough time.

It isn't just your plants that take a hit when you rake the leaves out of your yard. Entomologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, Thomas McElrath said it could impact the whole food chain in the ecosystem that is your yard.

"If they're raking up leaves from other areas that already have some dirt and non-grassy areas, they may or may not be moving around some butterflies or moths that are over-wintering," he said.

Which means, come spring and summer, you'll see fewer butterflies in your yard since they didn't have a habitat to live in during the winter. When you take away these butterfly and moth larvae, he says their predators like birds and small mammals suffer as well.

Both Weidhuner and McElrath also say the process of raking up leaves and putting them in plastic bags makes extra waste in landfills, further damaging the environment.

So if you still don't like the leaves being in your yard, but don't want to hurt the environment, what do you do?

"If you have too many leaves in your yard, you'll suffocate your grass and soil," Weidhuner said, "so mow them, and essentially add organic matter to your soil."

"Instead of having to do all that extra work and bag them up you'll be adding a nice mulch and creating some pollinator habitat as well," said McElrath.

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