Leave the Leaves!
We realize that in our neighborhoods, many feel that raking leaves is a necessary part of property upkeep. When you clean up your leaves pollinators who overwinter in the leaf matter are disrupted. A pollinator-friendly alternative to raking and then shredding, bagging or burning leaves is to keep leaves whole and push them around the base of your trees and into your garden beds. This practice:
- protects the plants
- acts like a mulch
- saves pollinators as all of our beneficial insects overwinter--except for migrating Monarchs--and often do so in the leaves
- supports pollinator reproductive cycles as shredding, burning or bagging leaves for municipal compost kills the eggs and the pupa
If your leaf mulching and banking around the trees looks intentional it doesn't look untidy. Leave those leaves until late spring when the temperatures consistently go above 50 degrees. Then it is safe to compost them.
Leave the Seed Heads on Your Native Plants
After the growing season has ended, you can support birds and pollinators in mind by leaving the seed heads on your native plants for the following reasons:
- to help feed the nonmigratory birds--many die because of lack of food
- butterflies like the swallowtail leave a chrysalis that will emerge in the spring
Renowned pollinator expert, Heather Holm, writes about the concept of "soft landings" which she defines:
Soft landings are diverse native plantings under keystone trees (or any other regionally appropriate native tree). These plantings provide critical shelter and habitat for one or more life cycle stages of moths, butterflies, and beneficial insects such as bumble bees, fireflies, lacewings, and beetles. In addition to plants, soft landings also include leaf litter, duff, and plant debris.
Check out this Soft Landings PDF from Holms' website. It contains more detailed infographics about this concept and helpful native plant lists for creating your own "soft landings."