If you’re looking at the dead leaves all over your lawn and groaning at the thought of raking them all up, you’re in luck; an environmental expert is encouraging you not to.
Rebekah Neufeld is acting Conservation Science Manager for the Manitoba region with Nature Conservancy of Canada in Brandon, Man. She says there are good reasons for leaving a layer of autumn on the ground.
“By leaving some of the fallen leaves on the ground you’re actually creating or leaving habitat for quite a few species that over-winter. Lots of insects, amphibians and other animals need that kind of cover and protection to survive our winters. Sometimes those leaves themselves have eggs and larvae of these species, so by leaving them in our yard we’re keeping nature and these important species around in our back yards, providing more habitat and protection for them.”
Fallen leaves not only put nutrients back into the soil, they also protect lawns from the cold weather and provide birds with a source of food over winter. However, Neufeld advises against leaving too thick a layer.
“That could smother your grass, lead to too much moisture or rot. It’s important to think about what kind of trees or plants and shrubs you have. Some leaves don’t break down as fast so make sure you have a thinner layer, or tuck those in the garden so they mix into the soil and break down easier," she explained.
To avoid attracting unwanted critters, it’s important to keep fallen leaves a distance away from the house.
To appreciate the value of autumn’s natural debris, Neufeld says to think of it as a classroom.
“There are benefits to different species [and] by keeping the leaves around people might start seeing a few more critters in their yard," she noted. "You might have more butterflies, moths or frogs stick around. It’s a great way for people and kids to connect more with nature in their back yards.”
Neufeld says allowing children to make this connection at a young age can foster a life-long appreciation for the natural world.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada works to protect our country’s most precious natural places.
Written by Nicole Klassen/Terry Klippenstein, with files from Connor Gerbrandt.