You might be in a bit of a panic thinking winter is getting ready to rear its ugly head and you haven't gotten all your leaves raked up. Heck, most trees haven't even dropped the majority of their leaves yet! But you can take a chill pill according to scientists and environmental experts.

In fact, clearing your property of every leaf you can, is detrimental to your lawn and our planet. So be kind to your back, put the rake down and fire up the mower.

Here are some of the reasons why.

  • According to scientists, yard trimmings (grass, leaves, etc.) account for 10.8 million tons of waste that end up in landfills, or about 8% of all waste in landfills. Leaves combine with other organic waste to produce the greenhouse gas, methane.
  • Leaves are free fertilizer. Scientist and naturalist David Mizejewski says, "Leaves coverup root systems, preserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and other plants. They also slowly break down and return essential nutrients to plants."
  • The birds and butterflies you like to see in your yard depend on that "leaf litter". Butterfly and moth pupa exist in the leaves and removing them all can completely wipe out butterfly populations. Bugs that exist there invite birds to your yard in the spring.

If you have so many leaves that your lawn could smother under all of them you may have to do some raking to thin them out. What I used to do, and scientists recommend, is mowing over them with the bag on your mower and scattering the resulting mulch over plant and flower beds.

These yard and turf specialists advise that for most people it's about taking "baby steps" toward a "yard and garden that is a little bit more environmentally friendly and wildlife-friendly."

Sources: USA Today and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)