Don't be quite so thorough about raking the yard this year. Believe it or not, leaves are neccessary for the survival of bugs, amphibians and birds.
November 14, 2003: Leave some leaves
As we frantically try to clean up our yards before they are covered by snow, I would like to make a suggestion: that we don't be so thorough about it.
I'm Iain MacLeod from the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, and this is Something Wild.
Americans have been in love with lawns since the European settlers arrived with grass seed in hand, and lawns have only gotten more popular ever since.
Some animals do use lawns, especially if they are chemical-free. You often see robins digging for worms, and birds such as flickers can search for grubs and ants there. But there are many, many more species, both that live here full time or migrate through, that need leaves.
There are many birds that are "leaf-kickers:" they actually rummage through the leaves in search of insects. Many sparrows, as well as towhees and the thrushes that we love to listen to in the summer, depend on leaves.
So if you can leave some areas of leaves around your property, you would be helping these migrants a lot. You don't have to have unsightly piles. Consider using shredded leaves as mulch under shrubs and trees. Leave a windrow of leaves against a fence or where your lawn meets the forest. Loosely piled leaves are a great winter mulch on your flower beds. And you can clean much of this away in the spring, although it is better if you wait until most of the migrants have come through before you thoroughly clean up.
If you are really interested in making your yard more attractive to wildlife, you might consider reducing your lawn size and adding more flowers, shrubs, and trees -with shredded leaves as mulch, of course. Besides the birds, small mammals and amphibians will also make good use of them.
Something Wild is a joint production of the Audubon Society of New
Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio, and the Society for the
Protection of New Hampshire Forests. For Something Wild, I'm Iain
If you have a natural history question that you would like answered on Something Wild, email us at somethingwild@ nhpr.org.