Welcome to autumn. The leaves are changing, and soon lawns and yards across Canada will be covered with an eye-catching tapestry of orange, red and yellow – that will have to be raked up.

Or will it? Leaves are organic. They degrade into rich, useful compost and fertilizer. What happens if we all just … leave the leaves?

“The biggest problem is, if the leaves are big, say from a maple tree, they can suffocate the lawn,” says garden expert Jeff Mason, a frequent contributor to Canadian Gardening and other magazines. “Usually what we do with leaves like that is run the lawnmower over them, so they get all chopped up. And then they just stay on the lawn, or they can go into the garden.”

No raking, no bags – and especially no hauling them off to the local landfill.

 

“Something in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent of the nutrients that a tree produces in a year are in those leaves that we rake up and throw away,” says Mason. “If we just allowed the leaves to stay on the ground, or in the garden bed, this is what feeds and fertilizes trees in nature – their falling leaves.”

If you happen to like raking, you can also compost leaves by simply making a big pile of them at the back of your yard. They’ll rot down over the winter, and be ready to nourish your grass, trees and plants come spring. And they won’t even smell bad.

“It’s nothing more than the smell of walking through the woods, kicking up leaves,” Mason notes.

Compare that to the cost – in money, labour, time and gasoline – of municipal pick-up and composting programs. Your fall leaves are – with little or no effort – free fertilizer for your lawn and garden.

“There really isn’t any downside to doing this. The alternative is to pay tree guys to come in and fertilize trees for you, because you’ve taken all the leaves away. When you get it explained, it’s really silly that we do this – haul these leaves away every year.”

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