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

Kitselas First Nation received a round of COVID-19 vaccine shots. (Kitselas First Nation image)
Kitselas receives COVID-19 vaccine

Delivery of vaccine was expedited after cluster of cases in community

Northern Health has issued COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. (COVID-19/ CDC Image)
Two more COVID-19 exposure notices issued for schools in Terrace

Exposures took place at Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read