Leave the Leaves: Fall Tips for Saving Pollinators

There are many things you can do in the fall to support our pollinators. These include fall plantings, pollinator-friendly fall clean-up practices, and providing "soft landings". Please see the resources below for more details.

Rochester Pollinators Presentation:

Grow Back Better & Leave the Leaves

This presentation offers an overview of the reasons why we must consider the health and well-being of pollinators and other creatures as we steward our landscapes. Many practical tips and techniques are shared that will help you have both a beautiful yard and garden AND help to save the pollinators!

Given 9/7/21 at the Rochester Hills Public Library

What Do Our Pollinators Need Us to Do??

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

Nesting and Overwintering Habitat

The Xerces Society reminds us:

"The availability of nesting and overwintering habitat is one of the most important factors influencing populations of native bees and other beneficial insects. Yet, traditional landscaping practices rarely leave enough natural resources to support pollinators and other wildlife."

Download their excellent PDF guide for supporting pollinators through fall and winter:

Nesting and Overwintering Habitat for Pollinators & Other Beneficial Insects

Create "Soft Landings"

Renowned pollinator expert, Heather Holm, writes about the concept of "soft landings":

"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."

Photo credit Heather Holm: https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/softlandings.html

 Download Free: Soft Landings PDF from Holm's website.

The PDF contains more detailed infographics about this concept and helpful native plant lists for creating your own soft landings.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!