Ease up on the yard work. It’s just kinder.
This time of year, people wear themselves and each other out with yardwork. There’s raking and activity with leaf blowers. And then folks cut every green, soft tissue stem possible down to the ground. It really needs to stop. The incessant fixation on neatness and sterility is counterproductive for our wildlife, and life in general. Many species of birds overwinter in our cold region, and it’s often tough for them to make it through the freezing season with adequate food. Seedheads, as found on the above pictured Asclepias incarnata, can make all the difference in the world to a hungry bird. Spring is the right time to cut plants down, after winter is gone and the threat of starvation is over for our local wildlife. This is the eco-friendly landscaping method: wait until spring and take it easy with the leaves.
Lots of butterfly species use leaf piles to store their chrysalis. Salamanders reproduce in leaf litter. Leaf detritus is invaluable for our wildlife, if leaving the leaves in place where they fall is impossible for some reason, the next best practice for habitat is to put them in piles on garden beds or at an edge of the property. If you remember seeing more fireflies when you were younger? The subtraction of leaves from our terrain correlates with a mass reduction in firefly populations. In the 1970’s + 80’s people had a looser concept of yard work, and the wildlife was better off for it.
Another benefit for a light touch with fall garden chores and landscaping cleanup is the fact that plant and leaf cellulose is the most perfect fertilizer where it falls and biodegrades- it’s free and 100% organic and complete. So, use fall as a time to fill in your gardens and landscaped areas with new native plants to expand your property’s habitat value, or just catch up on your relaxation. Ease up on the yard work: it’s just kinder.