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Leave the Leaves

Did you know that leaving leaves in your garden over winter can help protect beneficial insects and other wildlife? This fall, consider leaving the leaves on your property wherever practical. 
Photo by Manfred Richter

Leaves falling on a lawn can be mulched with a mower and left on the lawn or raked into garden beds as natural mulch. Or create a composting area for the leaves to be used later to amend the soil. 

Naturalist David Mizejewski from the National Wildlife Federation explains the benefits of “leaving the leaves” as follows:
“Leaves form a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds and fertilizes the soil as it breaks down. Why spend money on mulch and fertilizer when you can make your own? Critters ranging from turtles and toads to songbirds, mammals and invertebrates rely on leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material. Many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring.”  

Photo of a firefly by Heather Griesbach

One of the common insects that is struggling worldwide is the firefly. This article from the National Recreation and Park Association discusses the plight of the firefly and how leaving the leaves can help protect fireflies and other insects.   

At the Naperville Park District, staff leaves stems and leaves in perennial beds over winter where practical, depending on the location. The District also continues to add more park meadows and natural areas in the parks, which provide habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife. 

Pollinator garden, Naperville Park District

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