Breakdown: Why you should leave the leaves

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 1:41 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Fall is once again here, so let’s turn our attention to the hallmark of the season —the autumn leaf.

Every Fall, deciduous trees drop their leaves, which creates a layer of dead leaves, or leaf litter, on the ground.

Many people tidily rake and bag up or blow away these leaves, but these leaves are actually an important part of our ecosystem and is essential for many animals.

Fall is coming, but don’t bother with the rake! Fallen autumn leaves are important to the tiny ecosystem that exists in...

Posted by For Fox Sake Wildlife Rescue on Sunday, September 12, 2021

Leaf piles are amazing for wildlife, providing shelter and a great nesting spot for hibernating animals, such as chipmunks, other small mammals, frogs and countless insects.

A healthy layer of undisturbed soil and leaf litter means more moths, which in their caterpillar phase are a crucial food source for birds.

Additionally, when leaf piles are left undisturbed beyond winter, they tend to be inhabited by detritivores, such as beetles and woodlice, who feed on the decaying matter. They perform a valuable service as Earth’s cleanup crew.

Besides providing animals with essential food and shelter, leaf litter acts as a natural mulch and insulator to fertilize, nourish and protect plants and eventually become the new rich topsoil for future plants to thrive on.

According to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

Leaves are packed with trace minerals, and when added to your garden, they feed earthworms and beneficial microbes. They lighten heavy soils and help sandy soils retain moisture. They make an attractive mulch in the flower garden. They’re a fabulous source of carbon to balance the nitrogen in your compost pile. And they insulate tender plants from cold.

Bottom line: You can help birds and other wildlife—and save yourself some backache and blisters—by skipping the leaf raking this Fall.

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