Leave the Leaves

Pollinator Conservation Efforts

Leave the leaves….. an altogether new concept for many people to wrap their heads around. Although mother nature has been telling us what to do we insist that we know better. When we remove leaf fall from our gardens we disrupt the nutrient cycle. Plants absorb nutrients in the soil in order to aid their growth. Each leaf contains these nutrients and when we do not allow them to break down naturally in our garden beds we rob Peter to pay Paul. Beyond the depletion of our native soils we are depriving native fauna of nesting sites and nesting material. So start changing the way you think about leaf fall and leave the leaves.

Source: Backyard Bounty - Sustainable Landscape Design

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One of the most valuable things you can do to support pollinators and other invertebrates is to provide them with the winter cover they need.

Besides providing the right plants, and protecting your garden from pesticides, one of the next most valuable things you can do to support pollinators and other invertebrates is to provide them with the winter cover they need in the form of fall leaves and standing dead plant material. Frequently however, this is the hardest pill for gardeners to swallow.

It may be habitual, a matter of social conditioning, or a holdover of outdated gardening practices from yesteryear—but for whatever reason, we just can’t seem to help ourselves from wanting to tidy up the garden at the end of the season—raking, mowing, and blowing away a bit of nature that is essential to the survival of moths, butterflies, snails, spiders, and dozens of arthropods.

That’s why this year—and every year—we are making the case for leaving the leaves and offering input on what to do with them. Read on!

Free Mulch!

Fallen leaves have all the properties and benefits of expensive wood mulch – and they’re free!

Another reason to leave the leaves is for the many benefits they provide to your landscape. Leaves provide valuable organic matter and build up healthy soil. Fallen leaves have the same weed suppression and moisture retention properties of shredded wood mulch—and they’re free! Where mulch is desired as a decorative element, what could be more seasonally appropriate than a pile of brightly colored fall leaves?

In the past gardeners may have worried that fall leaves, matted down by snow or rain, would have a negative impact on their perennials. In reality, a thick layer of leaves provides additional insulation against bitter cold weather, and can protect newly planted perennials when frost-heave may expose tender roots. Anyone who has spotted fragile spring ephemerals popping up in the woods knows that all but the frailest of plants will burst through the leaf litter in spring without trouble.

The Bottom Line


You gave them flowers and a place to nest. You tended your garden and avoided pesticides. Don’t carry all of that hard work out to the curb. Simply put, when we treat leaves like trash—we’re tossing out the beautiful moths and butterflies that we’ll surely miss and work so very hard to attract.