Looking at a blanket of leaves over your backyard? The Nature Conservancy of Canada says there are a lot of good reasons to leave them there. Photo: Christopher Roden

Not looking forward to raking? Here’s why to leave the leaves

Nature Conservancy of Canada has good news for those who hate yard work

Every fall, people delight in the beautiful display of colour as trees go from green to stunning shades of red, yellow, and gold. However, the downside is that soon after comes the task of raking all those leaves.

Those looking to avoid – or at least delay – raking leaves can now cite the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which says we should let the leaves be.

Keeping a layer of leaves on the ground is a small act of conservation that can support backyard biodiversity in many ways, the not-for-profit land conservation group notes. Migratory birds and some butterflies head to warmer climes in the fall and winter, but many native insects (including pollinators) and other backyard wildlife, such as toads, hibernate through the winter, and can use some help from us.

“A couple of layers of leaves are good for pollinators, moths, and butterflies,” says spokesperson Andrew Holland. “It’s good for insects, which are an important food source for birds in the spring. …

“Having lots of species around is an indicator of the health of our neighbourhoods and communities.”

Leaves on the ground also helps improve the soil. As the leaves break down, they provide a natural mulch that enriches the soil. If you have too thick a layer of leaves, it can impact grass growth, but a light covering can improve the health of lawns and gardens.

“If you get a lot of leaves, put them under shrubs and trees away from the house, where they can protect the root systems of your grass and shrubs, and protect against the freeze-thaw cycle,” says Holland. “My mom is set in her ways and doesn’t like leaves, so we’ll blow them under shrubs, which is good for richness and helps stabilize the soil.”

He advises against leaving piles of leaves, but to just let them fall naturally, so as not to attract rats and mice.

The organization also encourages people not to clean up their gardens entirely, as plant stalks and dead branches provide important winter habitats for many creatures. Birds can also benefit from fruits and seeds left on trees, flowers, and shrubs, using them as a crucial food source to sustain them during winter.

Holland says that if you have a real Christmas tree, you can throw it in the backyard when the holidays are over.

“Birds can use it for warmth. That tree in the yard can be a warm habitat for some of those winter months. And some branches will break down and recycle back into your yard. Some people cut holes in the tree stump to accelerate the pace of decay as the tree breaks down.”

READ MORE: The many hats of a conservation officer

Holland admits that leaving the leaves might not work for all.

“I live on a corner lot with a storm drain out there, so I don’t want to have a bunch of leaves clog it up when there’s heavy rain and have water run up on neighbours’ properties. You have to exercise common sense. And clean up pine needles, because they’re very acidic and harmful for the soil.”

You may feel pressure from neighbours to have a pristine lawn, but he says leaving the leaves doesn’t mean never dealing with them. “By Mother’s Day, hopefully winter’s done, and you can pick up leaves for the spring yard cleanup.”



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Manny’s Motel’ badly damaged by fire Jan. 15

Police say 40 Ave. closed due to fire, use alternate route

From courthouse to council’s house

Old courthouse had long history before becoming City Hall

Revenue Canada, RCMP don’t accept Bitcoin: police

RCMP issue Bitcoin warning posters

Writer says Alberta highway system falling apart

Highways in ‘deplorable’ condition: writer

County council denies request for parking lot

Buck Lake groups are welcome to raise funds and return to council

Rebels fight back from 3-1 Raider lead to win 4-3 in shootout

Two goals by Zak Smith key to Rebels comeback

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Metis nations ask Ottawa to negotiate directly with them, not national body

Three provincial Metis nations will work through the national council until after the federal government releases its 2020 budget

Most Read