‘Let them lie’: Flemish towns rethink autumn leaf clean up
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‘Let them lie’: Flemish towns rethink autumn leaf clean up

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A growing number of Flemish municipalities have stopped raking up fallen tree leaves as they awaken to the climate and environmental benefits of letting the autumnal shedding pile up.

Around half a dozen towns and cities in Flanders are heeding the advice of a campaign launched by a Bruges-based permaculture expert and sustainable landscaping consultant Louis De Jaeghe.

Dubbed “Let them lie!”, the campaign touts the varied benefits of dry leaves, not only as soil fertilisers but also for their wider impact on the local environment and on the climate.

“The environmental benefit, in particular, is great,” one Flemish mayor, Anne Van De Rostyne of Sint-Martens-Latem, outside Ghent, told VRT.

“Autumn leaves that are left in place act as an extra-good absorption layer for water. They ensure that the soil retains water longer and releases it more slowly.”

Other environmental agencies, such as the US National Wildlife Foundation or the VVOG Flemish association of public greenery also echo De Jaeghe’s arguments that leaves are great fertilisers as well as an important element for local wildlife and biodiversity.

Just under half a dozen other Flemish municipalities in the province of East Flanders have also jumped on the wagon, including Aalter, Kruisem and Zwalm.

Van De Rostyne said that the benefits of dry leaves can extend well into the summer and add as a weapon against the increasingly common heatwaves that have battered the country over recent years — as well as the droughts they drag along.

According to the VVOG, local authorities should nevertheless still rake up leaves on areas like pavements or bike lanes, as they can create dangerous slippery situations.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times