Photo: How to leave the leaves

Why not leave the leaves? They’re good for butterflies and other critters.

If I know you, you can't stop helping pollinators — planting a butterfly garden, getting your yard off grass, signing the Monarch Manifesto and more. I realize you might have snow on the ground by now, but don't feel bad if you didn't get to rake the leaves. And next fall, allow your rake to collect only dust!

Why? Because butterflies begin in leaves, as larvae. Keep leaves where gravity left them. Those brown, dead leaves are the planet's butterfly nursery and home to microbes and worms. Leaf litter is where many species of butterflies and moths overwinter as pupae. Animals like toads, shrews and salamanders benefit from leaf litter to hide and hunt, too.

If you can't leave all of your leaves where they fall, here are a few other ideas:

Mulch leaves in your planter beds.

Does your homeowners' association have something against leaves? Rake leaves off the lawn and into your planter beds.
Mulch leaves on your lawn. Use your mower to mulch leaves on the lawn and improve your lawn health by suppressing weeds and fertilizing the soil.

Collect browns to compost.

Composting 101 tells us to balance "greens" with "browns." Store leaves in a bin and add them to your backyard composter throughout the winter months.

Craft with leaves.

Have children collect their favourite leaves in your yard and throughout the neighbourhood. Then search online for nature weaving ideas or how make "craftiments".

Note: Please do rake leaves out of sewers and drainage pathways.