Washington, DC — With the arrival of fall, the National Wildlife Federation wants to remind you to put your rake and blower away and leave the leaves on the ground as nature intended. Raking up fallen leaves and sending them to a landfill in bags is the norm for most American families during the fall. However, these actions not only harm the environment and wildlife habitat, but also rob your garden of precious nutrients.
“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? Turning leaves into solid waste is, well, wasteful,” said National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski. “Removing leaves also eliminates vital wildlife habitat. 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. Also, sending organic matter such as leaves to the landfill causes the release of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Best of all, the less time you spend removing leaves, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and the wildlife that visits your garden.”
The solution: let leaves stay where they fall. Wherever possible, let fallen leaves break down naturally, which helps improve the soil and provides countless wildlife species with habitat. While leaves will smother your lawn, consider replacing lawn areas with planting beds, filled with native plants and mulched with fallen leaves. If you must remove leaves, use them as mulch in your existing garden beds or compost them on site rather than throwing them away.
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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.