When it comes to fall yard clean up, doing less is best

Black capped chickadee perched on a bird feeder

As you prepare for your fall yard cleanup chores, we’ve got one simple and sustainable trick to keep your yard and garden maintenance to a minimum this fall – simply to do less. Keeping your yard and garden a little less tidy has benefits beyond shortening your to-do list. Here’s how and why you can spend less time with the rake and more time taking in the fall colours.

The benefits of doing less

Freeing up a little more time to enjoy the dying embers of summer is one reason to forego some fall maintenance chores. But leaving things a little more natural also provides birds, pollinators and other animals reliable food sources and nesting sites throughout winter.

American goldfinches and black-capped chickadees love feasting on the seeds of wild bergamot and black-eyed Susan. Fruit and seeds left on trees and shrubs provide an important winter food source for birds like northern cardinals, blue jays and cedar waxwings. They’re also a welcome treat for American robins returning in spring. You’ll enjoy seeing these colourful visitors in your yard on bleak winter days.

American Goldfinch

Bees also benefit. Native ground-nesting bees, like sweat bees and mining bees, reproduce and overwinter in tunnels of loose soil, while cavity-nesting bees, like carpenter bees, prefer holes in wood or the hollow stems of plants like raspberry and goldenrod. Providing bees a home will help keep your garden blooming each year.

How to do less

Doing less is as easy as it sounds.

  • Skip raking and bagging leaves. Leaves make good mulch for your garden. You can also add them to your compost bin. Avoid using black walnut leaves as they contain a compound called juglone, which inhibits plant growth.
  • Leave plant stems and grasses standing. Put away the pruners. Standing dry seed head provide food for birds while stems and long grasses provide nesting sites for insects.
  • Don’t till or turn soil. A layer of compost covered with mulch and leaves will help keep soil healthy for spring.
Leaves make good mulch for your garden.

Doing less can be beautiful

In case you’re worried about what the neighbours might think, natural doesn’t have to mean messy. Keep wispy native grasses and wildflowers within edged gardens. Standing plant stems and seed heads will provide visual interest during winter. Pile tree branches and brush in discreet areas of your property, such as behind a shed, rather than removing it entirely. You may not win the competition for the most yard waste bags, but you’ll benefit from the abundance of birds, butterflies and bees visiting your property and emerging in the spring.

Learn more fall maintenance tips and tricks

Free Webinar, Saturday, September 19, 9:30-11 a.m.

Join CVC’s Sara Maedel for a free webinar on how to prepare your green yard for fall. You’ll learn about pruning young trees and shrubs, proper mulching and wrapping techniques and tips for providing winter habitat for birds and pollinators. Register today.

By: CVC’s Calantha Elsby Specialist, Environmental Outreach and Joe Pearson Ecologist, Watershed Knowledge

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