by Linda Foster
You’ve probably heard that leaving fall leaves is a good thing. Decomposing leaves provide nutrients to replenish the soil and feed your lawn. This is true, but the impact of being a little bit “messy” in your yard has an even greater benefit to our pollinator community.
We have all heard about the perils facing monarch butterflies, but are you aware of the dangers to the butterflies that remain in your garden year around? Many butterflies and moths survive winter hibernating in yard debris, some overwinter in chrysalis or caterpillar form. Bees, hoverflies, ladybugs beetles as well as numerous other insects remain throughout the winter months. Cleaning up all the fall garden debris may be pleasing to look at, but it removes any chance of winter habitats.
Here’s where we come in to protect our environment. There are multiple approaches to providing a winter habitat to our summer companions:
Rake leaves into garden beds, mulch leaves into your lawn, or shred leaves and spread around perennials, trees and shrubs.
Consider a compost pile to allow leaves (brown) with grass clippings (green) to decompose for future garden amendments.
Think ahead to a new garden bed. Reuse and layout newspapers or paper grocery bags, cover with leaves and keep in place to kill a patch of lawn. In the spring, prepare a new garden bed for native plants you’ve dreamt about all winter!
Too many leaves? Perhaps that gardener friend would appreciate your contribution to their garden.
Finally, find that “cozy” corner of the yard to leave a pile of branches, twigs, stems and leaves to shelter native wildlife.
You can start working on your Healthy Yard any season of the year. Leaving leaves is an important step in sustaining the natural web of life. If it’s your first step or you’re already on the journey, our pollinators will thank you.