This fall I’ve retired my rake.


I have a big yard with lots of mature trees, bordered by woods.  When I tell you that I have leaves in the fall, I mean I have LEAVES.  Tons of them.  About a foot deep.

Last fall (my first year here) I was the gung-ho new homeowner and went out and raked them all — which took about 7 zillion hours and completely ruined the tenuous friendship I have with my back for several weeks.

This year, after some serious contemplation (and not-so-fond memories of aching arms and back) I decided to re-think my leaf related strategy.  It occurred to me that, as far as I know, Mother Nature has never raked a leaf in her life, and she’s been at this a helluva lot longer than me.  Perhaps she’s on to something here.  And perhaps it’s in my lawn’s best interest that I should follow her lead.

This year I decided to retire my rake and mulch my leaves instead.  

Quite frankly, most of my reasoning on this relates to lack of time and perhaps some inherent laziness. But there’s also some sound agronomics and environmental benefits behind it, so I feel happily justified in my sloth.

Let’s start with the agronomics.  Nature is the Original and Great Recycler, and for eons has taken the fallen dead stuff and broken it down into its nutrient components to feed and support the next generation of live stuff.  By mowing/mulching my leaves in instead of raking them, I’m just giving Mother Nature a helping hand in doing what she does best.  Being a South Jersey dweller, I also suffer from heavy clay soils that hold water like nobody’s business.  By incorporating more organic matter into the soil (i.e. chopped up leaves and grass clippings) instead of removing them, I’m adding structure to the soil and making it more “air friendly” as well as adding free fertilizer. Mulching my leaves not only feeds the following year’s growth, but over time will also make it drain easier so it’s less of a stagnant swamp during the rainy season, and will also allow it to hold more moisture when things really start to dry out at the end of the summer.

Then there’s the environmental side.  I could rake all that carbon-based goodness up and haul it to the dump every fall, killing my back in the process and using way more fossil fuel than my little mower does. (Our township forces the hand a bit by not offering leaf pick-up.)  Then I could apply a synthetic fertilizer in the spring and fall, which uses even MORE fossil fuels to make, truck to the local big box store, and drive home.  The tree-hugger bit of me cringes at that.  (Not to mention I already have a bag of rock-hard fertilizer in the garage that I never got around to spreading out this spring.)

And then there’s that time crunched/lazy part. (See previous statement about rock-hard fertilizer.) Why on earth would I want to spend several days raking leaves, another couple of hours mowing, and then yet another couple of hours fertilizing, when 3 hours walking behind my mower with a single pass can deal with all three?  Duh.

So whether you want to chalk it up to agronomic acumen, environmental responsibility, or sheer laziness on my part, I’m opting to mulch my leaves from now on.

You should, too.

Colleen Clifford

  • Virginia Kellum

    I don’t believe that I have ever raked my leaves. Upon occasion I will sweep the leaves from by back step on the grass and then chop them up with the mower. I believe it is much better for the environment !

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