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The reason why the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District says you should keep the leaves in your yard

Posted at 1:23 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 13:23:13-04

CLEVELAND — As fall works to make its peak appearance in Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District has some words about the proper disposal of yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings and wood chips: leave them in your flower bed and yard.

In the next couple of months, homeowners and landscapers will find their lawns covered in leaves, and while someone’s first instinct is to rake up them and put them on the curbside, Amy Roskilly, conservation education program manager, encourages everyone to look at leaves and other yard “litter” a little differently and not resort to dumping them near streams to curb erosion.

"Leaf litter and grass clippings provide organic matter to the soil below. Use a mulching mower to mulch up leaves and leave them on your lawn,” said Roskilly. “If there are excess, rake them into your gardens and let them decompose over the winter. They will add much needed nutrients to your soil. The leaves act as a mulch and keep the soil moist and help to regulate soil temperatures.”

If you do decide to rake them, Roskilly advises homeowners to be careful making a pile near a curb where there are storm drains. The best practice she says, is to rake the leaves the day before or the day yard waste is getting picked as they will likely blow into the street.

“Our storm drains lead directly to our waterways, untreated. This is excessive nutrients we do not want in our rivers, creeks and streams. Remember, only rain down the storm drain," Roskilly said.

Another reason to leave the leaves in your yard or garden is it protects them against the elements of winter. When you remove plants in your garden, you take away the decaying roots that are vital nutrients for microbes that live in your soil.

"Essentially you are starving your soil and it will not be as healthy for you next spring," she said.

Wildlife uses the decaying matter above for shelter, nests and cocoons. Hibernating bumble bee queens and larvae of numerous butterflies and moth species use the leaves as shelter.

Lastly, the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District says most communities accept yard waste for composting either at a service yard or in association with curbside garbage collection. If your community does not offer this service, contact an Ohio EPA-certified compost facility.