Five reasons to not rake those leaves

brown oak leaves

It is near the end of fall. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees. So time to rake them from the yard, right? PROBABLY NOT! (* Though see comments below about maple tar spots.)

Here are five reasons:

1. Leaves are basically fertilizer waiting to happen, and you can speed along the process by running them over with a mower. You could use a mulching blade for a very fine chop, but just the regular mower will do fine. [Washington Post]

2. Researchers at Michigan State have been studying this practice and reports that the resuling leaf compost both helps the grass grow the next season and helps inhibit weeds. Said one of those Michigan State researchers of mowing the leaves into the lawn: "It's not only not a problem, it's awesome." [Michigian State Extension] [CS Monitor]

3. If you have a ton (well, probably not literally a ton) of leaves, you can mow and bag some of them and use them as mulch for garden beds or for composting. Again, free, natural fertilizer and weed control. [Fine Gardening]

4. Mulching and composting the leaves in your yard keeps them from having to be picked up as part of curbside garbage/recycling collection.

5. Leaf blowers are the devil's clarinet.


Except this year, there's been a widespread outbreak of Maple Tar Spot Disease. From Cornell Co-op Ext of Rensselaer County: "The most effective management practice in a home lawn situation is to rake and destroy leaves in the fall. This will reduce the number of overwintering "spots" (containing the fungal reproductive structures) which can produce spores the following

There is one very big reason to rake...It keeps the fungus, that has been attacking all our Maple trees, from spreading. Rake and bag them, don’t mulch, and your trees will have a better chance for next year.

Dan J and Leigh, thanks for the info. From the same reference: "Mulching leaves will suffice to destroy many of the spots before they mature, but the mulch pile should be covered or turned before new leaves begin to emerge in the spring."

Leaf blowers should absolutely be illegal. Hey all you new, useless Albany common council members - here's a chance to be non-useless. Support a ban on their use in the city. They're loud, they have very dirty engines, and they don't actually, you know, accomplish anything.

I'm not a scientist, but think the ticks would appreciate more leaves for overwintering, so I'd prefer to rake.

Don't mow! Many moth species (including luna moths) spin their cocoons inside leaf piles this time of year. Mowing destroys the pupae and cuts down a great deal on moth populations. Same goes for bagging and burning leaves.

Oh also a note on tar spot--it's an aesthetic problem only. The trees aren't harmed by it. The outbreak of tar spot this year was caused by the wet summer we had. If we have better weather next summer, than it's unlikely that we'll see fungal loads as high as we did this year.

Double whammy if you have pine trees
Definitely need to put rake them up if you want to have any grass.

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