Leave the Leaves to Promote Wildlife and Soil Health

milkweedIt’s that time of year. Leaves and snowflakes are falling and for many gardeners, you’re likely finishing “putting our garden to bed.” This yearly process traditionally consists of pulling up annual plants, cutting back perennials, and raking and disposing of the leaves on our lawn. While the benefit might be a “tidier” looking yard, we challenge you to lay down your nippers and rakes, walk away from your gardens, and leave the leaves.

Following a more hands-off approach to end-of-year garden and yard maintenance maximizes the benefits to wildlife, water quality, and soil health. Stalks, stems, and dead flower heads of tall-stemmed plants, like bee balm, black-eyed susans, and echinacea, provide excellent sources of food for birds and offer great habitat for overwintering insects. As an added benefit, leaving your plants and their root systems in the ground improves soil structure and adds organic matter which lessens the chance for erosion. Lastly, leaf litter and grass clippings are nature’s fertilizer. Mulching your leaves and leaving them on your lawn adds nutrients back to the soil while also providing great places for insects like native bees and other pollinators to take refuge.

You may think a messy garden is an eyesore, but trust me, the bees, birds, and other wildlife will thank you!

Wondering what else you can do to improve your property for wildlife? Author and Lake Placid Land Conservancy supporter Pat Garber encourages you to “Go Native and Help Save Biodiversity.” Click the link for practical advice and great inspiration. Many thanks to Pat for this contribution!