By Chaneen Haler, Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District
As the weather cools, fall colors start to cover the mountains, and we enjoy apple picking and hot chocolate, crisp mornings and a seasonal break from humidity. Cooler temperatures also bring leaf season. Our yards slowly become a bed of orange and brown organic material, and we reach for our rakes and yard waste bags.
When we remove organic materials from our yards — think grass clippings or leaves — we remove the opportunity for soil building. Balanced, robust soils promote healthy yards, and organic material is an important part of creating healthy soil. Organic material breaks down slowly, improving the texture and porosity of soil, really creating a habitat that invites both plants and micro/macroorganisms to thrive. Without consistent additions of organic materials, water infiltration is nearly impossible, small organisms move to better habitats and plants struggle to grow. That famous South Carolina clay continues to redden, and we are left to increase our fertilizer application to grow lush grass and colorful flowers.
In addition to naturally building your soil, undisturbed fallen leaves provide essential habitat and food for native pollinators. Many insects take refuge in and beneath the natural cover that leaves provide. Pollinators, including native bees and flies, are directly responsible for nearly one third of the food we consume. So really, you’re supporting the local food system when you leave your leaves!
This fall, we challenge you to take a different approach to your yard management. Leave the leaves. Gain a few extra hours for a bonfire in your backyard or a walk through Cleveland Park. Take your kids to MacGregor’s Apple Orchard and hand-pick some pumpkins for carving. Most importantly, know you’re building your soil and bettering your yard and your community!
For more information on yard debris management, go to greenvillesoilandwater.com/yard-waste.
October Clean Water Challenge: Leave the leaves
Put our recommendations into practice and you could win a Harvest Gift Basket from Swamp Rabbit Cafe!
- Leave your leaves; compost, mulch, or simply leave fallen leaves on the ground.
- Snap a picture! It can be of your yard or anyplace you see fallen leaves.
- Caption it with a leaf pun and tag @gcsoilandwater
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries on Oct. 31, 2020 at 2 p.m.