Every November, rows of leaf bags are set out on trash day. For many years, we lived under the false assumption that raking was an obligatory fall chore – we now know better. When we clear our yards of leaves, we inadvertently destabilize natural processes that support healthy plant growth, enrich soils with nutrients and provide habitat for many creatures.

Leaves insulate plant roots throughout the winter, contribute to building up living soil and store carbon. Small creatures spend a critical part of their life cycles in this leaf duff, including fireflies, butterflies, moths, bees, frogs and salamanders. While it may seem like there are “too many leaves,” we simply have too much lawn. Consider converting your lawn into native plant beds. Rake leaves into your perennial beds, use them as compost for vegetable beds, or create a compost pile to use next spring.

Most important, we must abandon the use of leaf blowers. In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Leaf Blowers Destroy the Environment,” the author notes a study that found “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor.” We are spewing carbon into the atmosphere for a completely unnecessary reason.

As I watch my neighbors continue these antiquated fall rituals, I encourage you to “leave the leaves” to ensure a healthy yard, improve local ecosystems and enjoy the beautiful, natural world of a Maine November day.

Michelle Smith
board member, Wild Seed Project

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