Fall Leaves: Cleaning up the Lawn, Home, and Garden

The Benefits of a Thorough Fall Cleanup

October 13, 2017
Fall Leaves on Lawn

While fall cleanup may not be much fun, we choose to see the task as a trade-off for the beautiful colors of the season. In case you’re having trouble finding the motivation to clean up your yard this year, here are a few important ways that a thorough fall cleanup can benefit your yard, home, and garden.

Benefits of a Thorough Fall Cleanup

In the Yard

Once the leaves have started to fall, many of them will come to rest on your lawn. A small number of leaves isn’t a problem, but when those leaves really start to gather, they need to be removed! Leaving a lot of tree debris (fall leaves, branches, and bark) on your lawn over winter is detrimental for three reasons:

  1. Thick layers of leaves can become wet and heavy, smothering grass and inhibiting growth in the spring.

  2. Leaves will break down over time, but the buildup of mold and fungi may eventually spread to the grass, too. 

  3. Leaf cover can encourage springtime pests, such as mice, moles, and voles, to be more active and destructive in the area.

All three scenarios can leave your lawn looking patchy and unhealthy after winter. To prevent them, you should remove the leaves before the first hard frost occurs.

Tip: The quickest and easiest way to do your fall cleanup is to use a leaf blower or leaf vacuum. Keep in mind that raking can put a lot of strain on your back and shoulders, so we recommend stretching beforehand and taking regular breaks, if needed.

In some cases, if the layer of leaves isn’t too thick, it’s possible to mulch the leaves right into the lawn with a lawn mower. (Just make sure that you’re able to chop them down to confetti-size pieces!)

Fall leaves

In the Garden

Many gardeners like to leave a layer of fall leaves in their garden beds through winter because the leaves can act as a natural mulch. Like the mulch you would buy at a store, a layer of leaves can provide protection from harsh winter temperatures, with the added bonus of being full of beneficial compounds. However, you don’t want to let the leaves pile on too thickly unless you plan on removing them in the spring, as they may end up smothering plants. A thick layer of leaves in the garden can also encourage pests to take up residence.

Tip: Raking in a garden bed can be a delicate operation—you don’t want to pull up any of your precious bulbs! A leaf blower can help to get any leaves that are annoyingly ensnared in the stems and branches of your plants and shrubs out of the way.

Around the Home

Leaves that are allowed to collect on the creases of your roof or in your gutters can cause big issues later on, when rain and snow really start to come down. Stuck leaves and branches can cause blockages, which eventually become ice dams, resulting in leaky roofs or busted gutters. The easiest way to clear out blockages is to use a leaf blower with a gutter hose attachment.

In addition to the leaves on top of your home, you’ll also want to remove leaves from around your home’s foundation, as a buildup of wet, rotting leaves can encourage mold to develop on your house.

Fall leaves around tree

What to Do With Fall Leaves

Now that you’ve cleared off your lawn, tidied up your garden beds, and blown out your gutters, you may be wondering what to do with all of those leaves. The most efficient way to use leftover leaves is to turn them into compost! Compost made purely from fall leaves, called leaf mold, is a great source of beneficial nutrients and can be added to your garden soil after a few years of composting. Learn how to make leaf mold here, then check out a few other uses for fall leaves!

See our Autumnal Equinox page for more fall-themed advice, folklore, facts, and fun.

What do you do with your fall leaves? Let us know in the comments below!


Reader Comments

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Siberian Elms are the last trees on the block to loose their leaves and with every wind storms I rake a little for my compost, then for the big blow out I rake them directly on top of my perennials and raised beds to be removed in the spring for the compost pile. I love raking leaves! then if it's not too windy I make a fire to burn cut branches sit and have a cup of tea.

Leaf Removal

The person next door has four huge maple trees in a yard, limbs break off all the time, the trees are not cared for, never have been...the amount of leaves that blow into my yard is astronomical, time consuming on my part to clean up and ridiculously unnecessary to have that many bunched together...hopefully down the road we will move.

Leaf Removal

I have dealt with the same issue as "M" for years. My idiot neighbors rake the hell out of their leaves and put them in the middle of our street (they do the same with the snow from their driveway, most of which gets dumped onto our property). Then, they blow into our yard. They never bag up their leaves or put them into other containers. Both make sure, however, to go and work out for hours and hours. I wish the hell they would work out and get their damn leaves before I end up with all of them. I'm pricing a cheap way to put up a fence. I'll still get some of the leaves but they will be stuck with most of them and see how much fun it is to have leaves a foot high in their driveway/walkway plus nowhere to dump their snow when it comes.