Nature Nearby: Consider 'Going Native' With Your Leaves

Nature Nearby: Consider ‘Going Native’ With Your Leaves

  • Nature Nearby is written by Naturalist Valerie Blaine, environmental education manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. You may reach her at

This month, we “ooh!” and “ahhh!” over the colorful leaves in the treetops. But as soon as they hit the ground, they fall out of favor. They go from being a treat to being a nuisance. What gives?

The abrupt change of heart is due to the suburban turf war, in which we pit lawns versus leaves. The suburbanite’s dream is a perfect, uniform carpet of green grass, but achieving this ideal is a never-ending battle.

This time of year, people even take up arms for the cause — rakes, wheelbarrows, mowers, blowers, bags, you name it.

This is an expensive war. Not only is there a cost to us, there is also a cost to the environment. For us, there’s the expense of time, energy, and money. For the environment, the cost is the loss of both renewable and non-renewable resources.

Is there an alternative? Yes!

Landscaping with native plants is a wonderful way to make peace with leaves. Leaves on the ground will decompose, thereby enriching the soil. They will also provide habitat for lots of native animals.

If you don’t want to totally “go native,” you might designate an area of the yard for leaf composting. Leaves can be used as mulch and placed as bedding material for shrubs and perennials.

There are a lot of local resources to learn about natural landscaping. Check out The Conservation Foundation’s “Conservation at Home” program. There’s also great information on the Kane County Recycles website.

Additionally, Northern Kane County Wild Ones meets monthly and features speakers on native landscaping topics.

So, let’s call a truce and make peace with the leaves.

Love ’em and leave ’em!