Leaves: leave or remove? #778181 - Ask Extension

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Leaves: leave or remove? #778181

Asked November 21, 2021, 12:56 PM EST

We recently had much of our backyard re-done to remove lawn and install a mix of ground covers and grasses (sarcoccoca, shore juniper, autumn ferns, crysogonom Virginianum, etc.). I used to rake the leaves and then chop them up to spread around but I wonder if it would it be equally good to leave them where they lay, just making sure that the plants are not covered by them? In addition to leaves there is other tree debris such as nuts and tiny branches from the nut trees (black walnut and pecan). I actually rather like the look of the natural mess rather than cleaning it out and putting down mulch. I have included a few pics to see what I have (there are more leaves now: these pictures were taken a week or so ago).

Prince George's County Maryland

Expert Response

We recommend that you leave the leaves and the fallen nuts. The nuts will supply food for squirrels and other wildlife.  Keeping the leaves intact, as opposed to chopping/shredding them, benefits overwintering insects and other wildlife, giving them shelter from both the weather and from predators, as well as a place to forage. Decomposing insects, millipedes, freeze/thaw cycles, and fungi will all work together to reduce the thickness of the leaf litter by spring.

Here is a good article on Leave the Leaves https://xerces.org/blog/leave-the-leaves

Marian

Marian Hengemihle Replied November 23, 2021, 11:52 AM EST

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