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Why Rake Leaves: The Truth

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Take a leaf out of our book and try this new approach every fall. 

If your yard is littered with leaves, what’s the best way to get rid of them? Should you rake them? Leaf blow them? Or something else?

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We’ll talk through all the reasons why you should rake leaves. But we’ll also touch on when you shouldn’t rake leaves, as well as covering some other important questions on the topic.

Why Should You Rake Leaves

It’s not totally necessary but it can be important. Firstly, leaving the leaves could ruin your grass the rest of the year since too many leaves on the ground can prevent growth. Another reason is that more leaves on the ground leads to more bugs. Lastly, leaves on the ground during winter can lead to snow mold diseases.


Is It Necessary to Rake Leaves?

It’s technically not absolutely necessary, but it is important. If you don’t rake at least some of them up, then you could ruin your grass for the rest of the year. Leaves that stay on the ground through fall and winter can prevent growth in spring (1).

Another reason to rake the leaves is that if you don’t, you might find yourself facing snow mold diseases.

Lastly, more leaves bring more bugs. And what happens when you have excess bugs in the yard? They eventually make their way into the house. Yuck.

When Should You Rake Leaves

Here are the best times and situations to rake your leaves:

  • It’s a good idea to wait until the leaves are crunchy. So you don’t need to rake as soon as they fall down. In fact, waiting a while can protect the soil in the meantime.
  • Once you have a thick layer of leaves. Even if the leaves aren’t crunchy yet, it’s time to rake them up if they’re literally everywhere. Once they start piling up, you prevent the grass from getting sun and moisture.
  • If you are planning on mulching or mowing the leaves, but the layer is too thick, rake some up first to avoid damaging your power tools.
  • If you are planning on showing off your yard, then you may want to consider raking up those leaves. It makes a yard look very nice and tidy. On the other hand, some people like the look of fallen leaves — strong fall vibes.

What to Do With the Leaves

Once you’ve raked the leaves into nice piles — what’s next?

You have a few options.

First, you could cut them up using a power tool or ripping them by hand. From there you could put them in a plant or flower bed to provide leaf cover. This is natural mulch and fertilizer. We recommend putting them in places that don’t get leaf cover, so the ground and soil can benefit.

You could also compost your leaves. Check with your local authority that this is an option.

Don’t

You shouldn’t put the leaves in plastic bags and put them in the landfill. This is bad for the environment. If everyone did that, it would amount to a lot of garden waste in landfills.

When Not to Rake Leaves

Can you get away with not raking leaves? Yes, in these situations:

  • If it’s not urgent, and you want a chill day, relax. Take it easy. Don’t rake. Unless a thick layer of leaves has been lying there for ages, you can get away with procrastinating another few days.
  • If the leaves are freshly fallen. You want to give the leaves time to provide the grass and soil with the right nutrients first. Also, animals survive on the fallen leaves, so leave them for a few days before raking them up.
  • If you have a lawnmower. You could just mow over the thin layer of leaves instead of raking them. Simply leave the scraps on the ground. The small parts are fine to live on the grass, so you never need to rake again!

FAQs on Raking Leaves

How Often Should I Rake Leaves?

It depends on how many leaves have fallen. If you have a lot of trees, you may need to rake more frequently, like once a week, when the layer becomes thick. Growing up, we probably raked our leaves up three times in the fall. Judge by how thick the layer of leaves becomes and go from there.

Should Leaves be Left on Lawn Over Winter?

You definitely don’t need to pick up every last leaf before winter sets in, but you shouldn’t leave thick layers of leaves either. If you do leave some leaves throughout winter, then you could actually find healthier and richer soil in the springtime (2).

Is It Ok to Mow Leaves Instead of Raking?

Mow up leaves instead of raking if the layer is thin. This will shred the leaves and leave behind small scraps that you don’t need to rake.

Top Tip

Check your lawn mower’s instruction manual first to check if it’s safe for your machine to mow up leaves.

Is It Better to Rake Leaves Wet or Dry?

Either is totally fine. But they both have their pros and cons.

Raking dry leaves can be really difficult on windy days since the wind can blow them away.

If the leaves are wet, you can make better lumps of leaves. But it will be much heavier. Also, if you have allergies, wet leaves can host mold and mildew which can trigger a reaction.

Pro Tip

If you are using a leaf vacuum, you need to make sure the leaves are dry.

Do Leaves Turn Into Soil?

Not on their own. You can turn the leaves into soil with a little hard work. You’ll need to create a compost pile, feed it with organic nitrogen fertilizer, add soil and then do quite a bit of maintenance before the leaves actually turn into soil (3).


Turn Over a New Leaf

If you’re sick of raking leaves every fall, you may be in luck. You really don’t need to rake all that often, and there may be some ways around raking at all.

Only rake the leaves if the trees are almost done shedding, if the layer of leaves is too thick, or once the leaves are crunchy.

The bottom line is you can leave the leaves if the layer isn’t too thick. On the other hand, if you have a thin layer of leaves, you can mow over them instead of raking at all!

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!

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