Conserve Wildlife Blog

Leave The Leaves This Fall

October 6th, 2022

By Leah Wells

Once leaves fall to the ground, leave them be! Deciding not to rake, blow, and dispose of your leaves not only benefits native wildlife but provides nourishment to your garden and lawn. 

Do you buy fertilizer, compost and mulch every spring for your garden? Why spend the money and when you can make your own. As leaves break down and decompose they release nutrients into the soil, part of a nutrient cycle that is needed for a healthy ecosystem. Leaves help suppress unwanted weeds, just as purchased mulch does but for free. They also help retain moisture in the soil and also protect soil from erosion.  

Leaving your leaves also creates vital wildlife habitat. Those layers of decomposing leaves serve as habitat, cover and foraging areas for many of our native wildlife. Numerous animals ranging from turtles and toads to birds, mammals and invertebrates rely on leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material. Many moths and butterflies use leaf litter for winter protection of eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises. Other insects such as ladybugs, beetles, and spiders also live and overwinter in leaf litter. These insects then feed our chipmunks, birds, turtles, and amphibians. Ground nesting bees rely on leaf litter for insulation and protection from the cold winter months. 

If you decide this isn’t the option for you, there are other ways to manage them as well. Instead of leaving them scattered across your lawn you can pile them up around plants, shrubs, and trees to provide areas of protection. You can also create a compost by combining fallen leaves (carbon materials “browns”) with grass clipping (nitrogen materials “greens”). 

If you decide to move the leaves, opt for a rake rather than shredding them with a mower or using a leaf blower. These methods can kill the insects, eggs, and larvae that are living within the leaves. While raking leaves, avoid disturbing the soils below as insects can be found nesting. 

Think twice before you grab your rake this fall!

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One Response to “Leave The Leaves This Fall”

  1. Spike says:

    So glad to see this post! Re: Leaving the leaves..

    I’ve always let nature run its course when it comes to these things & wish some folks who have a tree or few that drop their leaves on their ‘lawns’ would research a bit before working so hard to keep it… a neat lawn rather than place where all of nature is magical and appreciated for whatever it is and however it fits in..

    Again, thanks for a great topic!

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