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Don’t rake those leaves, UT expert says

In the fall, raking fallen leaves is one of those things we all hate doing but experts say it’s better for your lawn and the planet to leave them where they land. Even if it feels a little weird at first.

“People are often resistant until they are properly educated that the leaves are beneficial,” says UT Turfgrass Science Professor John Sorochan. “There is definitely a misconception that leaves and/or returning grass clippings after mowing cause thatch.  This is not the case, however.  Thatch is living and decomposing tillers called rhizomes or stolons that create a spongy layer above the soil surface. Leaf litter from trees and mowing your lawn does not cause thatch, but does provide valuable nutrients and organic matter back to your soil.”

Resisting the urge to rake, comes with lots of benefits:

1| It’s helps wildlife. The leaf layer contains it’s own mini ecosystem that serves as a natural habitat for butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, earthworms, and others. They lay eggs in the leaves and feed on the under layer. When you rake or blow leaves, you disrupt their life cycle.

2| It increases beneficial insects. It you like to garden, fallen leaves help you develop a population of beneficial insects for the next gardening season. When you rake or blow leaves, these are removed increasing the chances that destructive insects will move in come spring.

3| It improves soil health. Mulched leaves will decompose and add valuable organic matter and nutrients into your soil. It also protects the level of moisture over the cold winter. Also, earthworms just love soil with decomposed leaves.

4| It takes up unnecessary space in landfills. According to EPA data, yard trimming including leaves created 34.7 million tons of waste in 2015. That accounts for about 13 percent of all waste generation.

Professor Sorochan recommends grinding them up with a lawnmower with a mulching attachment or raking leaves into a small designated place in your yard. Over time this winter, they will compost into rich, organic soil for the spring. He also says that a Michigan State study revealed that mulching maple tree leaves into the grass also helps suppress broadleaf weeds such as dandelions.

However, health officials warn that burning leaves is a bad idea as breathing smoke from burning leaves is actually quite bad for your health. Also, it’s illegal to burn leaves in many Tennessee counties. Locals should also remember that there’s an active burn ban in place now through May 15, 2020. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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