Even if you mastered the mower this summer and maintained a lush, handsomely manicured lawn all season, fall comes with a new set of challenges. Blowing or raking leaves throughout the season can leave you feeling less like an accomplished weekend yard warrior and more like Sisyphus and his boulder.

Salvation may come from the the National Wildlife Federation, which encourages homeowners to skip raking or blowing leaves entirely and suggests that instead they let them be. The reason? “A leaf layer several inches deep is actually a natural thing in any area where trees naturally grow,” according to the organization's website, which goes on to point out that many animal species—including turtles, earthworms, chipmunks, and insects—rely on that leaf layer as a micro ecosystem.

If you still feel that a leaf-covered lawn looks cluttered or messy, or live in a community that requires you to keep a clear lawn, here are two happy mediums.

Mow Leaves in Place

The top-performing lawn mowers and tractors from our tests make quick work of tall grass, and most are equally well suited to tackle fallen leaves. Leaving off the bagging attachment will allow your mower to turn dried leaves into finer sweepings that can then be spread evenly across the lawn, making them far less visible. While it won’t leave the leaf layer intact, it’s still an environmentally friendly alternative to blowing and bagging, since the leaf sweepings will break down easily and nourish the soil, promoting healthy grass growth next year.

Use Leaves to Form a New Ecosystem

The NWF points out that the leaf layer should be several inches deep to mimic the naturally occurring habitat found in forests. But even if you opt to leave fallen leaves in place, that depth would be tough to achieve if your yard is limited to a cluster of ornamental trees. A leaf blower helps you quickly corral fallen leaves; then you can pile them high in garden beds or at the perimeter of your yard, where they’re out of sight and also reach a depth sufficient to sustain life for small animals and insects. Check out our leaf blower buying guide for top picks at performing that task.

If you choose to leave fallen leaves on your lawn, remember that there are some places they don’t belong. They can clog storm drains and should be regularly cleared from decks, driveways, patios, and pathways, where they can prove slippery. They can also harbor moisture, which in the case of decks can cause premature rotting and staining.

For clearing from these spots, it’s tough to beat a conventional leaf blower, which makes quick work of fallen foliage and leaves you with plenty of environmentally friendly ways to dispose of the leaves. And if you’re still feeling some residual guilt about your impact on the planet, you can always take a more ambitious measure to offset the damage—a pile of brush can provide habitat to small critters, or, of course, you could always plant a tree.