Fall and winter are seasons of beautiful scenery changes. The changing of the leaves is typically a very welcome sight after a long, hot summer.
However, that lovely leafy scenery can quickly become an unsightly problem once the leaves fall to the ground. Yards become buried under a blanket of dead leaves, and neighborhoods start to look disheveled and messy.
Unfortunately, leaf-covered lawns bring more problems than just an unappealing appearance. The real mess comes when the leaves are left unraked through fall and winter.
If you choose not to rake, you'll likely have a much more unattractive yard situation headed your way come spring. Many consequences come with skipping this autumn chore. Leaving dead leaves on your grass can cause some severe damage, so we're here to explain to you the importance of removing the leaves from your lawn.
1. Leftover leaves form a harmful barrier over your grass.
It’s probably safe to assume that we’re all aware that grass is a plant. We also all know that plants require a few critical things to live. One of those basic factors for plant life is, of course, water. Moist soil is a crucial component in the process of photosynthesis, which is how plants create their own food.
Another essential ingredient for photosynthesis is air. Once plants, like grass, take carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with the water in the soil, they can whip themselves up a hearty meal. Needless to say, therefore, without access to air and water, grass can't make its own food to survive.
One final key element to plants making their food is energy. Grass requires plenty of energy to make their own food. And where do plants get this vital energy? You guessed it – the sun! Energy from sunlight fuels the whole photosynthesis process.
Here’s the problem with fallen leaves…they block access to everything that plants need to survive! Some yards don't have a lot of tree coverage, and if that's the case, only having some small sporadic leaves isn't a big deal.
The most harmful barriers to your yard are mass coverage of larger leaves, like oak and magnolia tree leaves. If you have a blanket of leaves on your yard, then your grass and soil have virtually zero access to sunlight, air, or water. If grass can’t photosynthesize, before too long, it will die.
2. Lawns need room to breathe.
While some people enjoy the comfort of a weighted blanket, we can assure you that your grass will NOT benefit from the heft of a leaf blanket.
A single leaf on its own carries almost no weight at all. But pile a few thousand of them together and factor in moisture, and before too long, your grass is covered by a pretty tremendous weighted blanket.
As we stated in our last point, a barrier of leaves blocks access to nutrients. But another major problem associated with the leaf blanket is the weight pushing down on your grass and soil.
To put it simply, a thick layer of leaves can smother your lawn.
Leaves left behind over winter become wet and condense. Any precipitation will be absorbed into the leaves, making the barrier on your grass heavier. A lot of weight on your lawn can lead to the soil becoming compacted. When there is constant pressure on your grass, the grass is pushing down onto the soil. The soil then compacts and hardens.
Hard, compacted soil can't properly absorb water or spread nutrients to the grass's root system. This could mean widespread damage. There are treatments for compacted soil (like aeration), but the simple solution is to rake up the leaves to avoid the problem entirely.
3. Dead leaves invite pests and diseases.
One of the most significant consequences of not raking your leaves is the pests and diseases that decide to take advantage of it. A layer of wet, dead leaves is the perfect place for many creatures to make a new home.
A wide variety of unpleasant critters could show up at your doorstep. Anything from cockroaches to beetles to mice would love to snuggle up in your leaf blanket. Not only are these pests unwelcome in general, but they can also harm your grass. It won’t take long for them to make a home and spread across your property.
Another unwelcome visitor to the lawn leaf blanket is grass diseases. One such problem is brown patch disease. Brown patch is a fungal disease that is identified by large yellow/brown spots of dead-looking grass. Brown patch is very effective at spreading and attacking your grass in colder weather.
Large areas of leaves left on your lawn make it even easier for the brown patch to destroy your grass. Check out our article on brown patches disease in the lawn to learn more on how to get rid of it.
Another troublesome wintertime grass disease is snow mold. Yards that have been covered by snow and freezing weather for a lengthy amount of time are at risk of developing snow mold. However, if a layer of dead leaves was left on the lawn before the snow coverage arrived, then there is a much higher risk of having a severe mold problem. The wet, dead leaves form the perfect breeding ground for this moldy disease.
Snow mold is identified by large yellow/brown patches, and the grass in these areas will appear very matted. If you're thinking you have no risk of snow mold attacking your lawn because you don't get consistent snow cover – think again.
Overcast, wet, cold weather conditions can also create a snow mold issue. And if you've left your leaves out, the threat is even greater.
What to do with your raked leaf piles
Raking isn’t exactly a cherished chore – really, it’s just plain annoying. But whether you hire a neighbor, assign the task to your kids, or do it yourself, it’s in your best interest that you make sure your yard is clear one way or another.
Ideally, we don't want to see thousands of giant yard waste bags filled with leaves to end up in already overfull landfills. To responsibly dispose of your bagged leaves, you should first check into your cities ordinances on the topic. Many cities have guidelines and rules about ditching your leaves.
For example, some cities require that you use clear bags, and many cities have regulated days and times for when you should put your bags out to the curb. Some places even have city-owned leaf vacuums that will suck up your leaf piles for you! So make sure you read up on city guidelines before you get to work on those leaves.
There are some great alternatives to bagging your leaves as well. One option is to shred your leaves and add them to your compost pile. The dead leaves actually provide some impressive nutrient benefits to your compost pile.
Another option is to "mulch" your leaves. Use a mulching mower to shred the leaves into tiny pieces. Leave the leaf bits spread evenly across your yard. The bits of leaves shouldn't be any bigger than your pinky fingernail. As long as these leaf shreds are tiny, spread evenly, and do NOT completely enshroud your grass, then they shouldn't be harmful.
Your lawn may turn slightly brown for a short while, but the leaf litter will eventually sink into the grass. Some experts say this can actually benefit grass growth as well.
Try Gecko Green’s year-round program!
Gecko Green is a family-owned local lawn care company that treats our customers like part of the family. Our lawn care professionals have been proudly serving the North Texas area for over 30 years. We offer a comprehensive year-round lawn care program that can keep your grass healthy and strong through every season. Call us today for a free quote!