From a story by David Mizejewski, National Wildlife Federation
shouldn’t feel obligated to rake up every last leaf in your yard this fall. Leave
leaves on the ground – they have a lot of benefit to wildlife and your garden.
Below are some tips on how to minimize the time you spend raking and maximize
the benefit to wildlife and the greater environment that fallen leaves offer.
A leaf layer
several inches deep is a natural thing in any area where trees naturally grow.
The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem! Many wildlife species live in the leaf layer as their primary habitat – including salamanders,
chipmunks, wood frogs, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, millipedes
and many insect’s species.
Many butterfly and moth species overwinter in leaf litter
such as luna moths, great spangled fritillaries, woolly bear
caterpillars (which become Isabella tiger moths) and red-banded hairstreaks.
Some overwinter as eggs, some as pupae and some as adults. If you rake up and
throw away all of your leaves this fall, you’ll be getting rid of these
beautiful and beneficial insects, many of which are pollinators. Butterfly and
moth caterpillars are also a critically important food source for birds in the
spring when they are feeding their babies. If you remove all of your fallen
leaves, there will be fewer of these insects in and around your yard and fewer
birds too. Also, some bats overwinter in the leaf litter, and can’t survive
severe cold temperatures without it.
gardening perspective, fallen leaves offer a double benefit. Leaves form a natural
mulch that helps suppress weeds and at the same time fertilize
the soil as they break down. Why spend money on mulch and fertilizer
when you can make your own?
layer of fallen leaves will smother lawn. The best way to solve
this problem is to reduce the size of your lawn, which is an
ecological dead zone that supports almost no living things. If you must have a
tidy look in your yard, or need to maintain one to comply with Home Owners
Association rules, you can rake leaves off the lawn but still use them as mulch
in your planting beds.
loud and create noise pollution and rely on fossil fuels which pollute our air
and contribute to global climate change. Use a rake instead. You’ll be able to
hear the chirping of birds and other natural sounds while you’re working, plus
you’ll get some good exercise!
If you must rake-up your leaves, don’t throw them in the trash. Compost leaves at home or drop them off at a municipal recycling center so they can be turned into compost that you and other members of your community can use in the spring. Some communities even offer curbside pick-up of leaves specifically for municipal composting operations.
worried about leaves blowing out of your garden beds, you can shred them into a finer textured
mulch by putting them in a big trash can and using a weed whacker or hedge
clippers to chop them down into smaller pieces less likely to blow away.
or shredding will likely eliminate many of the insects living in the leaves as
you shred them, but at least you’ll be recycling
the leaves back into your soil.
the less time you have to spend doing the back-breaking work of raking up your
leaves, the more time you have to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather outside and
the wildlife visiting your garden!
Autumn is a
fantastic time to make your yard wildlife-friendly by adding food, water, cover
and a place for animals to raise their young.