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

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

The City of Nanaimo is looking at spending another $400,000 on security throughout downtown in 2021, with a focus on overnight security. (Stock photo)
City of Nanaimo looks at increasing downtown security

Council members will consider $400,000 increase in 2021, $1.45 million in 2022

‘Nanaimo’ will be spelled out in five-foot-tall letters upon a slab of concrete overlooking Swy-a-Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Greg Sakaki/The News Bulletin)
Five-foot-tall letters spelling out ‘Nanaimo’ coming to Maffeo Sutton Park

$50,000-project expected to be installed by the end of April

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help find a 37-year-old man who was last seen early Tuesday, April 13. (Photo submitted)
RCMP searching for missing Nanaimo man

Friends, family of Robert William Sport, 37, extremely concerned for his safety and well-being

Guy Black passed through Nanaimo on Tuesday, April 13, on a 300-kilometre walk from Tofino to Langley to commemorate the contribution Canadian troops made in the Korean War battle of Kapyon in April 1951. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Man’s 300-kilometre walk commemorates Korean War battle

Guy Black walking from Tofino to Langley to honour veterans

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo teen arrested a day after allegedly assaulting and bullying victim

Teen taken into custody after wielding weapon and threatening driver at scene of car crash

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photo courtesy Ella Smiley)
Orcas near the beach thrill whale watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Most Read