Leave the Leaves
The Glencoe Sustainability Task Force wants you to “Leave the Leaves” this autumn by letting leaves stay where they fall! You may have grown up with the attitude that leaves created lawn litter and should be removed. But it’s time for some new thinking! Leaving the leaves can have a positive effect on the health of our environment, by reducing the need for chemical fertilizers on lawns, improving the quality of our lakes, and supporting biodiversity in our backyards. Leaving leaves to lie is an asset to the community and our environment because this action:
- Retains nutrients and keeps them out of storm drains and our lakes: Rain can seep through exposed leaves that are piled at the curb, creating a substance rich in nutrients, including phosphorus, that flows from storm drains to the lakes, contributing to algae plumes and reducing oxygen. Using leaves in your backyard can reduce the need for fertilizers and enhancing the health of your soil, as well as improving our lake ecosystems and our enjoyment of them.
- Provides winter cover for pollinators and other invertebrates: Layers of leaves offer essential cover that helps moths, snails, butterflies, spiders, and dozens of arthropods live through the winter. Read more here: https://xerces.org/blog/leave-the-leaves.
- Reduces the need for intensive yard equipment, such as gas-powered leaf blowers, and trucks to haul away leaves to compost sites: This can also reduce your household’s carbon footprint and save your wallet! The use of gas-powered leaf blowers emits exceedingly high levels of pollutants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and are linked to a number of serious diseases. Furthermore, gas-powered leaf blowers have a decibel level capable of causing hearing loss.
- If you employ a landscaper, be sure the company follows the Village nuisance ordinance, which prohibits the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from May 15 to September 15 and from December 15 to March 15.
- Switch to an electric-powered leaf blower! And consider letting your crew charge their electric blowers using your outdoor electric outlet while they work.
Want to start composting leaves but not sure where to begin? Although, the commonly held belief is that leaves kill the grass is false when referencing smaller quantities of leaves. There are many things you can do with excess leaves—and, although helpful, more than just leaving them on your lawn! Mulch leaves on your lawn, make leaf compost, make leaf mulch, or make leaf mold:
- Mulch Leaves on Your Lawn: Mulching leaves back into your lawn provides valuable nutrients and is similar to mulching grass clippings back into lawns. Use your mower to cut leaves into small pieces, which allows them to fall into and beneath the grass canopy instead of resting upon it. This process results in an increased surface area, allowing for faster decomposition and nutrient absorption.
- Make Leaf Compost: While many Glencoe lawns cannot possibly compost all of our leaves at home, you can reduce the number of leaves put out at the curb by making leaf compost. To compost the leaves, rake into a pile. Add a nitrogen-rich material to the pile to help the leaves break down, such as grass clippings, fruit or vegetable scraps. Speed up the process by cropping leaves with the lawnmower.
- Make Leaf Mulch: Use leaf mulch for free mulch and winter ground cover for gardens and around shrubs and trees. Shred your leaves and pile them on top of your annual garden or around perennial plants and shrubs. This will help insulate plants and protect them from winter freeze damage. Use your mower to chop the leaves into smaller pieces as larger leaves will get wet and mat down, providing poor insulation. Till the leaves into your garden in the spring.
- Make Leaf Mold: Leaf mold is different from leaf compost it is not mixed with other organic matter. To make leaf mode, chop up leaves or use whole leaves. Then you can either pile leaves in a sheltered, inconspicuous area of your yard and leave them for two years or you can make a 3-by-3-foot leaf mold bin from drive stakes and chicken wire or rabbit fence, and place the leaves in the enclosure. You can speed up either process by turning your pile or cage every 8 to 10 weeks. There are several ways to use leaf mulch. Leaf mold is a good substitute for peat moss. It has similar qualities and it's a renewable resource from your own lawn.
- You can also build a brush shelter, which involves creating brush piles that shelter native wildlife. Lastly, you can share your excess leaves with your neighbors, friends, schools, and others who can use them for the above tips as well. Read more here: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2015/OctNov/Gardening/Leave-the-Leaves.
The Sustainability Task Force sponsored a “Leave the Leaves” webinar with the Glencoe Public Library on October 4, 2021. View the program here!
Note: The Village Fall Leaf Collection will still occur. Find more information about the Fall Leaf Collection Program here.