August 23 – September 30, 2019Vol. 21, No. 12

Leave Your Leaves!

A three-tier buffer, where fallen pine needles have been left to form a thick layer of duff, which protects the soil. Photo courtesy of the Maine Lakes Society.

by Sabine Fontaine

Can you feel it? The weather is changing. Before we know it, fall will be upon us. There is still plenty of time to enjoy these last weeks of summer. But when fall comes along and you are closing up your camp, remember this LakeSmart moto: "Take a break, put down your rake, and save the lake!" Leaves and pine needles provide a barrier between rain water and dense soil. When allowed to accumulate, the debris creates a sponge-like barrier that captures and infiltrates rainwater before it enters the lake. We call that barrier the duff — it is one of the five tiers of vegetation in your buffer.

Duff is nature's way of keeping sediment in the ground. To get an idea of how deep your duff layer is, stick a pen into the ground. It will easily push through the duff layer until it hits the hard packed soil underneath. To build your duff layer, and save the lake, stop your raking! In addition to uncovering bare soil, raking can disturb the plants that are trying to grow. Putting down your rake can be your first step in letting your lawn naturalize — remember, lakes like less lawn! If you let nature take its course, your lawn will become a hearty buffer in no time.

If you are interested in getting personalized LakeSmart recommendations for your property, you can sign up for a free, no-obligation, LakeSmart visit by contacting Sabine Fontaine at or 512-5150.