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PAINTER: There are good reasons why we rake leaves

• Nov 26, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Why do we have to rake leaves?

Conventional wisdom tells us that raking keeps our lawns healthy and tidy. Leaves, we are told, can suffocate our lawns.

Out of curiosity, I decided to do a little researching on the subject.

According to the Spruce.com website, “lawns need to breathe.” Spruce also wrote that layers of leaves can invite pests and diseases, and can cause serious problems like “snow mold, block water, nutrients and a healthy air flow.”

An article in Popular Science also stresses that leaves be cleared from your lawn. “Too many leaves can throw off your soil chemistry,” John Kaminski, turfgrass researcher at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, told Popular Science. “As spring rolls around, you’ll have to remove all of the dead material, plus you’ll need to plant fresh growth to replace the bare patches,” he told the magazine.

But, according to the experts, a few extra leaves won’t harm your lawn.

There is another reason why we should rake leaves — our neighbors. We don’t want our leaves to blow into their well-kept lawns.

There are some who feel raking leaves is unnecessary. In an article in USA Today, the National Wildlife Federation is quoted as saying there are benefits to your lawn to not raking leaves. “Leaves are nature’s natural mulch and fertilizer,” David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the federation said. Mizejewski also said leaves take up a lot of space at landfills.

He added that if you feel the need to clean up your yard, leaves can be moved to a garden area or be mulched.

Fall is generally my favorite season, as cooler temperatures make for more comfortable sleeping, and it’s football season. My wife, Marilyn, and I also enjoy taking our dogs on long walks in the woods without the worry of being pestered by mosquitos or ticks. We also enjoy viewing the different colors of leaves.

Then reality sets in toward the end of fall. Leaves start to drop and our yards are full of dead leaves. We then are faced with the daunting task of raking them. My disposition then becomes sullener, as I think of all the raking that lies ahead.

This year has been especially difficult as snow fell before all the leaves dropped, making it more difficult to pick up. I have a leaf blower, but it isn’t very effective when the leaves are soaking wet.

I remember when I was a kid, I used to rake some of our neighbor’s yards for money. Not now that I am older, much older, and the time-honored tradition of using a rake isn’t as much fun. When you are my age, raking leaves can take a toll on your back. I did take the advice of some experts — I used a lawnmower to mulch some of the leaves.

We are fortunate to have an excellent leaf pick-up system in Spring Lake Village. Most residents just have to rake their leaves to the curb, so that a large leaf pick-up machine can pick them up. We’re even more fortunate as we live on the corner and we can rake leaves onto two different streets without having to carry them.

For those people who live in the townships, raking leaves can be an ordeal. My son, Casey, spent seven hours one day raking and picking leaves in his yard. I’m sure there are many other residents who have similar experiences.

Years ago, many residents burned their leaves, including some in the village. But burning is now banned in the village and in other communities, as well, because burning leaves contain harmful chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, according to some health officials. Thick clouds of smoke coming from burning leaves surely wasn’t good for our health.

For now, I’ll continue to clean my yard of unwanted leaves. I just hope they drop sooner next fall — before the snow begins to fall.

Happy raking, everyone.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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