The site navigation utilizes arrow, enter, escape, and space bar key commands. Left and right arrows move across top level links and expand / close menus in sub levels. Up and Down arrows will open main level menus and toggle through sub tier links. Enter and space open menus and escape closes them as well. Tab will move on to the next part of the site rather than go through menu items.

The Buzz

Good News For Those Who Hate Yard Work: You Can Skip Raking Your Leaves




(Photo by Chris Cheng)

Fall's riot of color is upon us, and that combined with beautiful autumn weather has many of us wanting to spend as much time as possible outdoors. One thing many of us would prefer not to spend our time outdoors doing is raking leaves.

You're in luck if you think of raking as one of fall's most tedious chores. Raking your leaves is an exercise in vanity — people do it because it makes their yards look nicer and more neat. But leaving the leaves on the ground where they fall is better for both the environment in general and the health of your yard. 

Yard waste, including leaves and grass trimmings, amounted to 35.2 million tons of waste in 2017 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most of that yard waste was composted, but 8.7 million tons of yard waste was sent to landfills in 2017, accounting for more than 6 percent of all waste sent to landfills. 

Those leaves do a lot more good in your yard than in a landfill, where they break down into methane, a greenhouse gas the contributes to climate change, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

When left on the ground where they fall, the leaves will break down naturally and fertilize the soil as they do. They also serve as a type of mulch, stifling the growth of weeds in the spring, the National Wildlife Federation reports. 

 

Leaf litter also serves as an important habitat that many types of wildlife depend on. Many animals — everything from chipmunks to box turtles to toads — rely on the fallen leaves for shelter as well as for a food supply. Some animals also use the leaves for nesting material. 

In addition, many caterpillars and insects overwinter in the leaf litter. Come spring, birds and other wildlife rely on those insects as a food source.

Leaving all the leaves where they fall isn't always a practical solution, because too thick of a layer of leaves could stifle your lawn's growth in the spring. If you have a mulching mower, you can simply cut the grass without removing the leaves. This will cut the leaves up into smaller parts that won't thickly blanket your grass. Or, gather leaves from your lawn for use as mulch in other parts of your yard, such as your garden or landscaped beds, the wildlife federation recommends. 

You can also consider creating a compost pile from fallen leaves and grass clippings. If you keep the pile moist and well combined, by spring you'll be able to use it as compost on your garden. 

____________

Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

Eyes To the Skies For A Planetary Alignment Not Seen Since 1623

11/25/2020

On the night of the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer in the night sky than they have since 1623.

Read More


Myth Buster: Dogs' Mouths Aren't Really Cleaner Than Humans

11/25/2020

Contrary to popular belief, dogs' mouths are just as dirty as humans'. 

Read More


Real or Fake Christmas Tree: Which One Is Better for the Environment?

11/24/2020

Think you’re doing the Earth a favor by buying an artificial Christmas tree rather than a real one? Not so fast with that rationalization.

Read More


Sign up for a Newsletter