Autumn chores ahead? Nature advocacy group suggests putting them off for now
If you're looking out your window at a pile of leaves needing raking, a national wildlife conservation group is saying that job may not be as urgent as you might think.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) says leaving fallen leaves on the lawn in your yard is a simple gesture that can help promote biodiversity.
That's because a lot of native species of insects don't migrate to warmer climates and need a safe spot to hibernate over the winter, experts say. Even some animals need the material to survive the frigid temperatures.
"Many animals, such as toads, frogs and some moths and butterflies, have adapted to hibernate in the leaf litter," said Samantha Knight, an ecologist and the NCC's national conservation science manager in a release. "The leaves provide an insulating blanket, which can help protect these animals from the cold and temperature fluctuations during the winter."
Your lawn soil can also be improved if you let the leaves break down where they fall too, Knight says, but only if they're spread out.
Thick piles of leaves can inhibit grass and plant growth, so it's important to clean up problem areas and put any excess into your compost bin.
"We might as well allow for the leaves to naturally break down in our yards and fertilize our lawns," Knight said.
It's not just your lawns that can provide critical hibernation space for animals and insects, the NCC adds. Branches, dead stalks from perennials are also important.
"By cleaning up our yards and gardens entirely, we are removing important over-wintering habitats for native wildlife in our communities," she said.
According to the NCC, approximately 80 per cent of Canadians live in towns and cities, so backyard biodiversity is very important, especially with habitat loss elsewhere.
The group also suggests that if you have excess leaves you don't want on your lawn, you can pile them around the base of shrubs, trees and in your flower beds to protect plants from the freeze-thaw cycle.
Leaves should always be removed from sidewalks to ensure they don't create hazardous conditions when they freeze, the NCC says. Pine needles, which are very acidic, should also be cleaned up because they can damage your lawn and even the roof of your home.