With cooler weather, tree leaves will soon change colour, fall and litter your yard. As beautiful as the foliage is, raking your lawn and tidying your garden is an outdoor chore that must be done before winter strikes. But the traditional approach to leaf cleanup may be doing more harm than good to the environment.
Those fallen, rotting leaves are home to important pollinators, butterfly larvae, microbes and worms. In fact, leaf litter is where many species of insects — particularly those that add to the biodiversity of your neighbourhood’s plant life — spend the winter. Birds and squirrels may also use different bits of leaf litter as material for building nests.
So, what can you do instead of piling your leaves into bags?
Here are three eco-friendly ideas.
1. Add whole or chopped leaves to your planter beds. They will insulate your plants from the cold during winter. What’s more, your soil will be teeming with earthworms next spring, as leaves are a great source of food for these slimy creatures. Earthworms help with your soil’s health by increasing nutrient availability, improving drainage and bettering its structure for deeper root growth.
2. Use your mower to mulch leaves right on your lawn to protect it from winter damage and fertilize the soil. This will also help suppress weeds, help retain soil moisture and lessen the need for fertilizer in the spring. Just be sure the layer of mulched leaves isn’t too thick, as this blocks oxygen to the soil and invites disease.
3. Add leaves to your composter. Be sure to layer leaves with grass clippings, dead plant matter and/or kitchen scraps. This will help breakdown the leaves to create a rich, biodiverse organic matter to mix into your garden soil next year.