Skip the raking and leave the leaves
Backyard wildlife need winter homes
People who are taking a bit longer to clean up their yard this fall have more reason to wait until spring: the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) says fallen leaves have many benefits. The not-for-profit conservation group is encouraging property owners to leave their leaves on the ground to support backyard biodiversity.
Dan Kraus, NCC senior conservation biologist, says “leaving the leaves” is a small act of backyard nature conservation that can make a big difference for native pollinators, birds and other wildlife.
“Layers of leaves are an important habitat for many animals, such as toads, frogs and insects. They hibernate under the insulating layer of leaves,” says Kraus. ”Many species of butterflies, moths and other insects also need plant stalks or dead branches for hibernation. By completely cleaning up our gardens we can be removing important wintering habitats for native wildlife.”
Kraus points out that leaves also provide a natural mulch that helps build and fertilize the soil as they break down. He says people can also help migratory and resident birds survive winter by not cleaning up their gardens until late spring.
“Fruits and seeds that remain on flowers and shrubs are a crucial food source that sustains many songbirds, such as goldfinches, jays and chickadees,” says Kraus. “Overwintering insects in our yards also provide an important food source for birds. Providing winter habitats for our native birds and insects is just as important as providing food and shelter during the spring and summer.”
For those who don’t like the look of leaves on their lawn, raking the leaves and piling them under bushes and on top of garden beds is an alternative.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast, including 34,000 acres (13,800 hectares) in Nova Scotia.
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