Ross: Raking your leaves might not be worth it, I drive over mine

Oct 23, 2023, 8:12 AM

raking leaves...

DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 3 : (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) In this photo illustration, A wheel barrow full of leaves with a leaf rake on November 03, 2020 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Every year, homeowners fall into the same debate: is it more responsible to rake your leaves or let them rot in place?

As the suburban back-to-nature movement spreads, it’s become more acceptable to let fallen leaves lie to nourish the soil and help butterflies, but lawn experts will caution you that there are risks.

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An article on the Southern Living website warns that letting your leaves rot in place is a half-witted idea that will ruin your lawn.

As for the claim that it saves innocent butterflies who need leaf litter to make it through the winter, the article points out that the same leaf cover that protects innocent insects will also protect the guilty. So that non-rakers will be surrounded by delightful butterflies as well as stinkbugs, squash borers, cockroaches, cucumber beetles, and tomato hornworms.

However, Southern Living says even if you do rake the lawn, it’s ridiculous to send the leaves off to a landfill when they’re so easy to compost yourself by just running over them with a mower.

And if you’re too lazy to mulch them yourself, they suggest enlisting your video-game-addled twenty-something live-at-home son.

I don’t have one of those, so my leaves get raked only when the Sunday paper starts to go missing.

Last year I tried an experiment in which I raked the leaves off the lawn and spread them in the driveway so that I would drive over them twice a day and accelerate the decomposition process. Plus, I figured that if it snowed, the layer of rotting leaves would make it easier to scrape any snow off the driveway come winter.

Instead, we had freezing rain, which cemented them to the pavement, and then come Spring, I had this mushy leaf slurry, which I’m sure was full of nutrients but ended up getting tracked through the house.

Plus, not a single butterfly.

These days, I just rake the leaves into the compost corner and mow over them once in a while because I don’t want to contribute to the 8 million tons of yard waste that, according to the EPA, ends up in landfills.

Also, there is always a chance that some future archaeologist will analyze my fossilized compost pile for evidence of our quaint 21st-century yard maintenance traditions. And I want to do my part to help the guy get his doctorate.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Raking your leaves might not be worth it, I drive over mine