October Challenge: Leave the leaves alone

Lazy it is not, to leave the leaf creatures alive.

Enjoy the leaves, don’t waste time and money bagging them, burning or hauling them to the curve. It is like raking leaves in the wind, shoveling snow in a storm or digging ditches in the rain.

I love the crunch of leaves under my shoes, especially the fragrant smell of the decay of leaves, slowly turning back to soil to feed next year’s plant growth.  The wind sweeps them over to the corners of buildings where I find the toads sheltering.   A thick layer of insulation provided by the leaf litter protects perennial plantings from the winter cold and freeze-thaw cycles. After the snow melts those same leaves provide weed suppression and moisture retention.  In the spring, a nice layer of mulch and soft compost remain where the leaves had accumulated.

While a thick layer of leaves might not be good for your lawn, a thin layer does benefit the lawn and raking the remaining leaves to corners and piles around trees or brushes provides huge benefits to our over-wintering creatures. Chipmunks, turtles, birds and amphibians rely on leaf pile dwelling creatures such as spiders, snails, worms, beetles, millipedes and mites for a winter’s meal. A couple inches thick of leaf layers provides a winter home to butterflies and moths.

Red-Banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) Observation date: Sep 29, 2012 submitted by: janno Region: Clermont County, Ohio, United States

A dried leaf might actually be the cocoon of a Luna moth or Swallowtail butterfly. That pile of leaves serves as a blanket for the Woolly Bear and Great Spangled Fritillary catepillars. Oak leaves house the eggs of Red-Banded hairstreaks, a gorgeous butterfly. Insulation provided by leaves protects the mated bumble bee queen that burrows only a few inches underground. So, leave that nice pile of leaves right there where it belongs.

“In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that’s the way new leaves grow.”
― Amit Ray


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