As autumn turns to winter, you might be thinking that it’s high time to finish getting your yard ready for snow. If you’ve been putting off raking up and bagging all of the fall leaves that have accumulated under your trees, you are in luck! Rather than hurrying to clear these leaves out, it is beneficial for both wildlife and your lawn to leave the majority of them in place. According to the National Wildlife Federation and the Xerces Society, there are many nature-friendly reasons to leave the leaves in your yard alone.
There are lots of organisms that benefit from leaf litter in urban and suburban settings. Many species of butterflies, moths and bumble bees overwinter in piles of leaves, and other small mammals and reptiles benefit from this shelter as well. Leaf litter is also a source of free mulch! You can gently pile it around trees, shrubs and other plants to insulate them from cold temperatures and improve soil quality. A light layer of leaves over your turf grass can help reduce your need for fertilizer or other inputs next season, resulting in a naturally healthier lawn (make sure it’s a thin layer though, too much coverage can kill your grass). When the snow melts come spring, you can use piles of partially decomposed leaves as fertilizer for garden beds. Just make sure not to disturb the piles until later in the spring so that all of the critters who have benefited from them have time to move out! #leavetheleaves