Let fallen leaves lie for healthier lawn and planet


Let fallen leaves lie, gardeners in Netherlands town urged

Allowing autumn leaves in parks and gardens to decompose boosts insect and soil health, says Eindhoven council

Fallen autumn leaves
Leaving fallen leaves can boost biodiversity, reduce weeds and the need for watering in the summer. Photograph: Riccardo Fabi/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Senay Boztas, Mon 24 Oct 2022 05.43 EDT

    A municipality in the Netherlands has declared fallen autumn leaves to be worth their weight in gold – ecologically speaking.

    Eindhoven, in North Brabant, is encouraging its citizens to abandon blowers and rakes and to let fallen leaves in gardens or parks lie.

    Martijn van Gessel, an Eindhoven council spokesperson, said they were trying to change ideas about how public spaces should look. The city wants to retire leaf blowers in parks and create a warm, wet, winter leaf layer for insect life – even if it looks messier.

    “For a long time, people were convinced that the grass always had to be mowed, the leaves had to be collected, and everything had to look tidy,” said Van Gessel. “But in parks, we should let the leaves lie.”

    Raymond van de Sande, a manager at Ergon landscaping firm, said he sometimes had to explain the mission to the good folk of Eindhoven. “What is good about this is that it breaks with the tradition of gardening and the idea that everything has to look tidy,” he said.

    He added that leaving leaves alone had many environmental benefits. “You let natural processes take their course, and you see that there are advantages not just in the areas of ecology and biodiversity but also with fewer weeds, and less need for water in the summer. When it rains, there is less runoff to the drains: it creates an entire process of improvements.”

    The council is putting out 200 “leaf baskets” around the city and is encouraging people tidying up fallen leaves around their street or home to deposit them to be diced, mulched and used as compost for city plants next spring.

    However, replanting the mulch can raise eyebrows, said Van de Sande. “Sometimes people find it a bit gross when we put the mulch back in plant pots, because it smells a bit woody. But if you explain that we are bringing back leaves to restore the ground which we ourselves have impoverished, then they understand.”

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