Well, the season has officially turned. Instead of beautiful golden leaves on the trees, we now have a thick layer blanketing every square foot of ground in sight. Which means it’s time to put away the camera, roll up your sleeves, and get raking.
Or is it?
According to the National Wildlife Federation, the name “leaves” is quite apt. It turns out that leaving fallen foliage where it is is over the winter actually may be beneficial to plants, wildlife, and, of course, you. So before you break out the rake, take a moment to read up on the benefits of letting fallen leafs lay. Here are our top three reasons why you should spend your afternoon sipping a hot cider instead of cleaning up the yard.
1. Rotting leaves create a mini-ecosystem that’s beneficial to animals
Years ago, before humans created the odd ritual of lawn maintenance, animals relied on an annual leaf-cover for safety and shelter. In any forested area, leaves remain wherever they fall, and animals ranging from chipmunks to turtles to toads to salamanders found their food among the foliage. The leaves provide coverage for insects and small animals, which in turn provide food for larger animals. In particular, butterflies and moths spend their winters as pupae among the leaves. If you rake them up, there will be less moths and butterflies emerging in the spring, which also translates to less food for birds and their young in the spring. Moths are also pollinators, so cutting down on their numbers is bad for plants and animals.
2. Leaves provide important cover for plants
You’ve heard about mulching, right? The process of putting organic material over a garden to help it grow better? Well, fallen leaves are natural mulch, and they provide all kinds of benefits for plant life. A layer of leaf coverage over the soil keeps moisture from evaporating and keeps plants better hydrated, it helps prevent weeds from spreading, and it fertilizes the soil so that it’s healthy and nutrient-rich. Sometimes the best way to healthy yard and garden is to do no work at all, but simply leave things as they are.
3. It reduces pollution and garbage
There are all kinds of waste issues associated with getting rid of your leaves: the non-biodegradable plastic bags used to contain them, the noise pollution of leaf-blowers, the manpower needed to haul them away. If you simply must get your leaves off your lawn, there are still eco-friendly ways to do it. The best way is to collect them and use them as mulch in your flower beds—just put them in a container and use gardening tools or a weed whacker to break them down. The fine mulch that results will work great to protect your plants. Another alternative is to compost or bring them to a recycling centre, where they can be turned into compost. And whatever you do, try to avoid using leaf-blowers, which use unnecessary energy and create a lot of noise. Instead, grab a rake and enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors. Your neighbours—human and non-human alike—will thank you.