Fall Rainscaping – Leave the Leaves

It’s that time of year again! Your lawn is soon to be blanketed with a bed of fallen leaves. Before you rake them up, have you ever considered leaving the leaves? There are actually many reasons to leave them be. Here’s just a few!

You may want to leave the leaves on your lawn because many animals rely on leaf cover to provide habitat during the fall and winter months. Think of the leaves as a nice warm home for lots of important insects and invertebrates. Even butterflies and moths winter in ground cover. Maybe you don’t love bugs, but many beautiful birds rely on those very creepy-crawly critters for food. When we remove the leaf cover, birds lose that food source – we’ve basically gotten rid of their grocery store.

Also, leaves are pretty much free mulch! They provide nutrients for your lawn, and some ground cover that can suppress weeds. If you don’t want to leave the leaves all over your lawn, you can rake them to a specific spot to use like mulch, or behind your house where they’re less visible, but still providing important ecosystem support.

Finally, did you know that yard waste, including fallen leaves, can also be a stormwater pollutant? If your local government policy is to rake loose leaves along the curb and it rains before someone comes to pick up them up, they can get washed into the nearby storm drains. This can clog storm drain systems and lead to flooding events which can also cause erosion. If the leaves make it out to local streams, the influx of decaying organic material can contribute to a spike in nutrients in the waterway. Though this may seem beneficial, it can throw the delicate ecosystem balance out of whack, contributing to algae blooms that can harm small aquatic organisms.

This year, try leaving the leaves*! For ourselves, birds, bugs, and the chance to see the beauty of nature’s ability to renew and recycle.

*If you live in an area with policies that require you to rake your leaves, look up your local government’s yard waste preference of how to bag/bin/collect these leaves for pickup, and try to keep them out of the storm drain!

For more reasons to leave the leaves, check out the New Hope Audubon Society or the National Wildlife Federation!

Introducing Caroline Wofford

Hello everyone! My name is Caroline Wofford and I am an AmeriCorps service member serving this year as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for the Clean Water Education Partnership (CWEP). I was born and raised in Chapel Hill and spent much of my childhood playing in the creeks and streams of central North Carolina, so these issues are near and dear to my heart.

I recently graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a Bachelor’s in Chemistry, and a focus in atmospheric and environmental chemistry. During my time at college, I was able to deepen my understanding of environmental science, while also learning also how science, policy, and human behavior come together to inform how the environment and natural resources are utilized. Throughout my education, I have often felt that science is inaccessible, and that there is a lack of effective means to communicate scientific concepts and findings to a non-technical audience. This hinders both general public understanding and effective evidence-based policies. I want to help get people of all ages excited about science as a way of understanding the world, rather than just a subject in school.

I am thrilled to be back home in the Piedmont, working to bridge this gap through clean water education. There’s so much we can do to help keep our water clean, especially regarding stormwater pollution. I can’t wait to work with communities across the state to protect our water, so all North Carolinians can enjoy a healthy environment for generations to come!