Leaves Aren't Litter

It's time to think differently about the leaves in your yard

  • Leaves can nourish grass and be composted for your gardens
  • Leaves are an important part of the environment’s natural cycle
  • Leaves contain lots of life and protection for critters
  • Leaves in a landfill release methane gas and contribute to climate change

It is that time of the year when homeowners are busy collecting fallen leaves in their yards and putting them in brown bags or garbage bags. This practice is a waste of resources – both on behalf of homeowners and the environment. Using leaves as a resource rather than spending energy to haul them away will serve as a benefit to your wallet, your yard and the environment. If you are interested in digging deeper into the brief descriptions below, a wealth of information is available to help put your leaves to good use!

Healthy Lawns and Gardens

Leaves naturally breakdown and provide nutrients for soil. They act as a natural mulch for your yard by retaining water. “Leaving the leaves” will help grass to grow and will reduce the need to use artificial fertilizers. This benefit extends to our waterways — runoff that contains fertilizers is harmful to water quality.

Leaves can be mulched and used as a protective and nutritious layer on your garden and landscaping beds over the winter. They can also be composted for use in your garden during the growing season.

Life Underfoot

According to the "Life in the Leaf Litter" guide published by the American Museum of Natural History, scientists have identified 38 species of ants alone in the leaf matter located in Central Park. Remarkable, right? One of the most densely populated cities in the world still manages to house endless life in its green spaces.

Consider these ants and countless other bugs living in the leaf layers in your own yard. Leaf layers are essential for providing food and shelter for bugs and wildlife, as well as seeds for new plants and trees.

The Options

  • Leave the leaves: simply mulch them with your mower
  • Compost: Incorporate rich compost into your garden beds in the spring
  • Mulch: Shredded or whole leaves can be used as mulch in your garden and landscape beds
  • Curbside Pickup: Check with your municipality. Municipalities often offer curbside pickup programs
  • Don't like leaf piles in view? Consider storing them out of sight if you have the option

Regardless of how you use your leaves (or don’t), there are a couple rules that everyone should follow:

Keep storm drain inlets clear of leaves. Leaves can block stormwater runoff from entering the drain and cause street flooding.

Do not store leaves in or next to a stream. Leaves decompose and add nutrients to wherever they land. This is a good thing for soil, but not a good thing for water quality. While leaves in a streams are a natural occurrence, additional loading causes harm.