Stop raking leaves this fall! Is this encouraging you to stay on the couch and not lift a finger in the garden? Well, partly, but the fact is that the National Wildlife Federation is telling us that we are actually harming the environment, disturbing many creatures’ habitats, and preventing the soil from being fertilized in the best possible and most natural way. You might think you are doing a service in keeping your neighborhood tidy and neat but you are not! Just put away that rake, would you?
Let us look at the leaves in more detail and how they actually protect the wildlife in your garden. Here are five excellent reasons why giving up raking may be good for your garden and the environment.
1. You want more butterflies
I noticed in our garden that there were fewer butterflies this last spring and summer. That got me thinking and one reason may be that I did a lot of raking last fall. So, what was I doing wrong? Well, a lot, actually.
It seems that a lot of insects use the leaf cover as a way to wait out the winter season. This is also known as overwintering. They need their habitat whether they are in egg or pupal form so that they can emerge in the spring. They will also provide vital food for the birds who feed their young. The survivors will then feed off your flowers and provide lots of other benefits for the environment. More importantly, they are great pollinators, along with bees so it is well worth looking after them. Let’s not forget that the world’s food supply depends on pollination.
2. You want fewer weeds
Did you know that the leaf layer on the lawn is actually going to help you control the weeds which have plagued you ever since you laid it? If you manage to shred the leaves with the aid of the lawn mower, all the better, as they will help to control the weeds. Mowing the lawn without the bin can help to scatter them more evenly. This sort of mulching done every fall will help to curb the growth of dandelions and crabgrass.
You can also store some chopped up leaves for your compost maker, if you have one. Remember you will also be reducing the tons of yard waste that burden our landfill sites every year.
3. You want cleaner air
I was going to buy a leaf blower. Now, I am very glad I didn’t because not only have I saved money but I am contributing to cleaner air. Those blowers use fossil fuel and they also make a lot of noise. All those bags of leaves are usually transported by trucks using more gasoline and that means more air pollution.
The newer type of blowers can shred leaves as they suck them up so if they run on electricity, they can be useful.
4. You want more natural fertilizer
If you are getting rid of the most natural fertilizer that your garden has in abundance and replacing it by using synthetic fertilizers (made from petroleum, mostly), well, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Leaves in the forest are never raked up and they provide the soil there with vital organisms. These leaves are full of nutritious elements for your plants, grass and flowers, so leave them there. They contain twice the mineral content of manure, for example.
If you do use the lawn mower bin, you can mix grass clippings with chopped up leaves and put them in the flower beds as mulch. It helps keep the soil damp and also provides great breeding ground for the micro organisms in the soil.
5. You want to protect the wildlife
A layer of leaves is its own mini-ecosystem. Don’t rake them up and bin them because there are many animals and insects that rely on these to find food and also to use as housing. You might not approve of some of the neighbors in the leaf layer mix but some of the more desirable ones are the shrews, chipmunks and box turtles.
Now you know why raking leaves is really a waste of time and you are not helping wildlife or the environment in any way. Gardening is good for you but you can put raking leaves at the bottom of your list. You can tell your neighbors about this if you feel energetic enough or you can have another snooze!
Featured photo credit: Laura subsumed by a leaf pile 20081004-133357/Paul via flickr.com