Leave the Leaves! Don't dump your leaf litter!
The autumnal months carry with them changes in our natural world. The days get colder. Animals prepare for hibernation by stocking up on fat reserves. The leaves on some trees change colour and fall to the ground. While for many, this leaf fall encourages satisfying stomping on particularly crunchy pavement treasures, it can also feel like a massive headache for those who feel they must rake and dispose of seemingly endless bags of leaf litter.
But fear not! What if we were to tell you that such a drastic intervention was not only unnecessary, but unwise?
Leaf litter isn't just nature's fly-tipping. It forms a vital habitat for many pollinators and, for gardeners, it creates an additional layer of insulation for your perennials against harsh winter temperatures. Toads live most of their lives in leaf litter and hedgehogs use it to build their nests. Hedgehogs are one of only three UK mammals that hibernate, making their nests (often made with fallen leaves) essential for their survival through the winter. Butterflies don't just disappear when the chilly weather comes, many stay hidden through the winter in habitats like leaf piles. Bumblebees will winter in holes in the ground, with leaf cover protecting from freezes. Getting rid of these needed homes for wildlife can be detrimental to their populations, so it's best to keep a certain level of leaf coverage available for them to use (even if you've never seen them around before).
If you're now sat twiddling your thumbs thinking you'd like to do something with those leaves around your home, here are our top 3 tips for making use of your leaf treasures.
- Make a leaf pile as a habitat. Focus on shaded spaces like behind planters and in the corners of garden walls. Build up leaf piles with leaves from around your home. If acquiring leaves from outside sources, avoid busy roads where atmospheric pollution may damage the leaf quality. Leave these leaf piles throughout the winter to act as a warm shelter and source of food.
- Make leafmould for your garden! By planning ahead and starting now, you can harness the minerals found in the leaves, to benefiting your garden for years to come and saving money along the way. Mineral content of leaves can be over 5% of their weight! One of our favorite guides to making leafmould is here from The Royal Horticultural Society. Since it's a long process of decomposition, it's a great way to slow down and have an extended project with little ones. Make a schedule for when you turn the leaves and take notes of its transformation into delicious food for your garden's soil!
- Use leaves as a source of creativity and play! For families or those who just want a little extra fun in your day, there are many fun crafts and activities that utilise trees' natural confetti. Leaf printings and rubbings can be a great way to make pieces of art that highlight the natural shapes and textures of leaves. They can even be used as a learning tool to illustrate the ways in which leaves act as a necessary part of the tree, producing food by photosynthesis. The Woodland Trust has a whole list of activities including these two, as well as leaf crowns, leaf masks, and more.
If you love our pollinators as much as we do, check out our Butterflies and Bees PACMAT picnic mats! The waterproof backing will protect against any residual dampness in case you find yourself having a picnic on your leaf-littered lawn.
Our Butterflies printed PACMAT comes in a gold-backed style (all the better to match the changing foliage) and our new recycled ripstop! The gorgeous butterfly watercolour print was designed by Gabby Malpas.
Our Bees pattern contains images and facts about the many species of bees that make their home here in the UK! The Bees print was designed by illustrator Jennie Maizels.
Many thanks to the resources that helped make this blog post!
People's Trust for Endangered Species
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
The Wildlife Trust for Lancaster, Manchester & Merseyside
The Royal Horticultural Society
The Woodland Trust