Leave the Leaves 🍂
Fallen autumn leaves are more than just yard work. Allowing leaves to lay positively benefits not only pollinators, but the entire ecosystem, too.
Leaves = Shelter
During the winter months, fallen leaves provide vital shelter for a variety of animals and insects, including butterflies, bees, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. Beneath the leaves, they hibernate, safely insulated from the cold. Clearing away leaves disrupts this crucial part of their life cycle.
Leaves = Nutrients
When leaves are left to decompose naturally, they enrich the soil with valuable organic matter, which improves soil structure and adds essential nutrients to the earth. This natural breakdown creates natural (chemical free!) fertilizer which gives life to the plants that support our pollinators.
Leaves = Nests
Fallen leaves, limbs, and last-season’s plant stems all provide excellent nesting and overwintering sites for native bees. By leaving the leaves and other natural elements in your yard, you're providing these vital pollinators with the resources they need to survive and thrive.
Leaves = Food
Leaves are the primary food source for the caterpillars of countless butterfly and moth species. Without leaves, these insects would lack the sustenance they need to complete their life cycles and transform into the beautiful pollinators we all love. Fallen leaves help animals too, as overwintering bugs and larvae are an essential winter food source for birds and other small animals.
Leaves = Biodiversity
Leaving leaves in place fosters a more diverse ecosystem. Fallen leaves support a microcosm of life, from microorganisms to fungi to insects (and the subsequent higher food chain), all of which contribute to a healthier and more resilient ecosystem.
Leaves = Enjoyment
From a practical standpoint, leaving leaves saves both time and money. It eliminates the need for raking, bagging, and disposing of leaves. So you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the great outdoors, all while knowing you’re benefitting the local ecosystem (and your back, too!).
Some tips for keeping your yard looking tidy:
If you aren’t able to leave the leaves where they fall naturally, consider raking them into areas to mulch under trees and shrubs, or relocate them to a designated ‘wild’ area in your yard or community. They will decompose naturally and become a layer of rich topsoil. If you wish to tidy up dead plant material and trim back old growth, wait until spring when the temperatures warm to be consistently above 50°F every day. This will give insects and other animals time to complete hibernation and emerge from their winter shelter.
Simply put, leaving fall leaves is an easy way to help pollinators and our ecosystem at large. When combined with additional support like planting for pollinators and going chemical-free, you can effect positive change in the world around you.