MISSOULA — This edition of A Wilder View takes a look at how to reduce your autumn raking and create beneficial habitats for wildlife with fallen leaves.
As it becomes colder and trees shed their leaves you may feel obligated to clean up your yard for a spotless lawn with no leaves in sight. But now you don’t have to break a sweat cleaning all those leaves in your yard — and it’s all for the benefit of wildlife.
Although it may not look as nice, leaving some leaves can be a great help to those smaller critters that occupy your backyard. This helps create a leaf layer that can be its own ecosystem. Species like salamanders, chipmunks, frogs, worms, and many insects can use the leaves as habitat.
Certain moths rely on a layer of fallen leaves to complete their cycle of life. Birds like sparrows, robins, and turkeys use the leaves to forage for insects.
In fact, around 96% of birds in our backyard rely on those butterfly and moth caterpillars as the primary food source for their babies during the nesting season. So, by removing all your leaves there will be fewer of these insects in and around your yard which leads to fewer birds.
In the springtime, many gardeners will go out buying mulch or fertilizer but the leaves already create that naturally. This natural mulch helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil as they break down. So, less work for you and more money in your pocket.
Now you’ll spend less time doing the back-breaking work of blowing, mowing, or raking your leaves, and having more time to enjoy the wonderful fall weather outside and the wildlife visiting your yard.