Protect biodiversity by leaving autumn’s leaves on the ground until springtime.
As the weather gets warmer and the snow melts away, many of us are eager to get our rake and shears out and prepare our gardening for another planting season. Spring is a good time to start gardening but not the best time to trim your trees and clean up leaves. One of the reasons to avoid these activities at this time is to protect wildlife. These warmer days provide a better food supply for animals and their young who are coming out of hibernation. They are also better for keeping eggs and newborns alive when parents leave the nest or den to look for food.
Trees and forests play essential roles for many wildlife species. They provide critical food sources, cover and nesting. Cutting down or pruning trees and hedges during the breeding season displaces, harms and sometimes can even kill animals. The sound associated with the machines can deter animal parents from returning to their nests or even from feeding their young.
Trimming and cutting the trees in the spring can also harm the trees themselves. Trees are dormant in the winter, and the bacteria, fungi, parasites, and insects living in them are also dormant or dead during this time. Trimming a tree when it is dormant doesn’t produce new growth. Therefore, experts recommend pruning or trimming trees in the late winter, depending on where you live.
As for raking leaves left over from the fall, experts say to leave them be because they are home to butterfly larvae, microbes and worms. Many small animals, such as frogs and toads, use the leaves to hibernate during the winter. These leaves are a food source for many birds looking for insects to eat. Many insects, like butterflies, will lay their eggs in the leaves.
Raking and cleaning up your dead leaves should be done when the daytime temperature warms up to a consistent 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Insects using the leaves as shelter will have had the chance to wake up and leave these spots. You can also leave the leaves on the ground as they will continue to provide habitat to animals and insects. And because the different species of moths, butterflies, bees, and beetles will emerge from the leaves at other times. Eventually will decompose and become a free mulch substitute and contribute to a healthy ecosystem.
Instead of cleaning up your garden as soon as the weather improves, take the time to appreciate the ecosystems living in your trees and under your leaves. Look for nests in your trees or insects under a pile of leaves and wait and watch as they develop into adults. You may have an opportunity to protect nature right in your backyard. Enjoy the weather and enjoy new life.