Why Leaf Litter is Important

By Brian Mounts | Feb 08, 2020
Why is Leaf Litter Important

I know it feels horrible to wake up and find that your lawn is covered with leaves from the big trees over there. Trust me, I have a lawn that I like to keep clean, and it’s really hard because the big trees just seem to be plotting against it all the time! But while I do hate it, I also do realize how important it really is, even more so in nature. Why is Leaf Litter Important, you ask?

That’s precisely what we’re here to talk about! In today’s article here at Turf Mechanic, we are going to take a look at why Leaf Litter is important and why you might actually think twice before cleaning it! Although you might still want to clean it to make your lawn look tidier, knowing about its advantages is essential before you actually decide on it. So, let’s get started so that you can make the wisest choice!

What is leaf litter?

Before learning about the importance of leaf litter, it is essential to know what it really is! Leaf litter is the layer of leaves that fall from the trees and cover your lawn. The larger trees (and the smaller plants too) drop a lot of leaves that actually stay there on the ground. This tree-leaf-debris on the ground is known is Leaf Litter.

Litter basically means garbage, and since these are mostly leaves, the term leaf-litter is used to describe it. We could go on and on about this, but you must have gotten the idea by now!

How does Litter form?

Leaf Litter takes a while to form, but it’s naturally formed by the plants over time. Leaf Litter is formed with the leaves that drop from the plants, as well as twigs and pieces of the bark that fall down. All of these turns into a compost heap, which is finally known as Leaf Litter.

It takes a lot of time to develop, but it’s one of those things you can’t miss once it does. If you want to see a leaf litter, you might want to visit a forest. Please keep in mind that you should not confuse a leaf litter with humus. A leaf litter is just the waste lying on the ground, it turns into humus after it is decayed.

Why is Leaf Litter Important?

One of the foremost questions that might arise in your mind is, “Why is Leaf Litter Important?” and that’s perfectly natural. Honestly, until I came to realize how important it really is, I couldn’t really have even imagined in the wildest of my dreams that it could be anything of use!

However, it really is important. While there are way too may reasons why it is so, here are some of the chief ones that you might want to know:

  • Leaf litter is not just waste matter, it is organic waste of the plant, that gradually decomposes near its roots. Once it does decompose, it turns into minerals and salts again that the tree can easily absorb. Thus, in a sense, it serves as a long-term fertilizer! This is one of the most important reasons why Tree Litter is thought be beneficiary for the plants.
  • Again, tree litter also serves to keep the soil moist! Exposed soil has transpiration rates that are way higher than the ones covered by tree litter. So, it actually helps the soil retain moisture for a longer duration by preventing evaporation by blocking the direct solar heat and sunlight. Quoting Sundayfarmer:

Litter aids in soil moisture retention by cooling the ground surface and holding moisture in decaying organic matter. The flora and fauna working to decompose soil litter also aid in soil respiration. A litter layer of decomposing biomass provides a continuous energy source for macro- and micro-organisms. As litter decomposes, nutrients are released into the environment.

  • Leaf Litter also serves as a great spot for animals and insects to make home. And that’s precisely why several kind of animals and insects can be found in regions with higher amounts of tree litter.  At the same time, it also protects the animals from predators because it acts as a good hiding spot.
  • Since a lot of insects live there, the birds that live on the trees can also find their food in a comparatively easier way. This is another benefit that the Leaf Litter provides in the long run.
  • And finally, leaf litter increases the overall humus content of the soil in the long run. It helps the growth of trees, which ultimately results in a higher number of trees, and that is beneficial for the environment. So, that’s yet another benefit that’s worth mentioning!

What are some of the problems with Leaf Litter?

Now, nothing can be only positive, everything has a negative side as well. And Leaf Litter is no exception to this, however unlikely as that might seem. So, here are some of the main problems that are connecting with Leaf Litter:

  • First of all, the leaves need to rot in order to become humus. This gives out a really stringent odor, which a lot of us might want to avoid. It’s fine in a forest, but it might just not be fine in your lawn. And that’s one of the cases where you might want to remove your Leaf Litter.
  • Next, a lot of harmful gases are emitted while these leaves decompose. If it’s happening in your own lawn, you might end up inhaling this, and you want to avoid that. So, cleaning your leaf litter becomes a good idea in that case as well.
  • Again, as we remarked earlier, it becomes the home for a lot of insects. While it might not be a problem in nature, it most certainly poses a problem if it happens in your own lawn! You obviously don’t want all sorts of insects to be present in your lawn- no lawn-owner, including me, ever does. So, you might want to clean your Leaf Litter if you don’t want that nightmare to come to life.
  • Also, one of the major problems you might face, that deserves a special mention because I faced it myself, is mosquitoes. If you have let the Leaf Litter stay there, you’ll soon find that there are a lot of mosquitoes living around you! And trust me, you wouldn’t really love the Leaf Litter once the mosquitoes make it hard for you to go and sit for five minutes in your lawn peacefully.

What Should I do?

Well, there’s really not much that you can do about it. Now that you know Why is Leaf Litter Important and why it’s actually pretty harmful, you have to decide whether or not you want it in your lawn.

Personally, I’d recommend not having it in your lawn. I say so because there’s no other option in nature, and no one’s living close enough to it to be harmed. But in your lawn, you’re going to be putting yourself at risk if you let leaf-litter stay there. You might just shift to using fertilizers to give your lawn most of the extra benefits that the litter was- this way, you’d be able to ensure the safety of your family’s health as well!


So, at the end of the day, we found out all what a Leaf Litter really is and how it is formed. We also learned about its pros and cons, as well as what you might need to know in order to decide whether you want to have it in your lawn or not.

As I remarked earlier, while you can have it in your lawn, there are safer alternatives. After all, while a lush-green lawn is what we all dream of, safety is of paramount importance. And as long as you can ensure that, the rest of it should not be a problem at all!

Turf Mechanic is here for you!

We are really grateful that you took your time to read this article till the very end. We really hope that you could learn of something new that you would be able to apply in your lawn. And, we also hope that you would finally be able to get the perfect lawn that you’ve been dreaming of. Work hard without losing sight of your dreams, and you will surely achieve it!

We understand that you might still want to ask us a few questions- and we look forward to that. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any queries, we are always eager to hear from you. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to help you with the best information we can! So, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us if there’s anything at all that you want to discuss with us.

Once again, we thank you for reading this article till the very end. Until we’re back, we here at Turf Mechanic wish you a great day! Till then, you might want to check out our other articles, here are a few to get started with: