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Leave The Leaves! Why You Shouldn't Rake

Nov 21, 2014 07:38 PM EST

Winter is rearing its ugly head, and soon your backyard may be covered in thick sheets of snow (if it isn't already). Now is the time to break out the rakes and bag up those autumn leaves. However, if you're not particularly into yard work, we've got a fantastic reason for you to shirk the raking: leaving leaves where they fall can actually be a boon to wintering wildlife and your garden!

That's at least according to a new campaign launched by the US National Wildlife Fund (NWF) called "Leave the Leaves for Wildlife."

"A leaf layer several inches deep is a natural thing in any area where trees naturally grow. The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem," the NWF reported.

They add that this leaf layer is a natural habitat for adorable chipmunks, shrews, box turtles, and even the little-seen salamanders - an organism that was just recently revealed to be far more important to forest food-chains than ever thought possible.

Of course, your backyard probably isn't a forest, otherwise you'd never get your raking done. Still, if you like butterflies, leaving a thin layer of leaves could be hugely beneficial.

"If you rake up and throw away all of your leaves... you'll be getting rid of these beneficial and often beautiful insects too," added the NWF, explaining that many moths and butterflies spend their winter months hibernating as pupae in leaf litter.

Still, if you're worried that leaving leaves to rot on the frozen ground this winter will smother your lawn come spring - a very unlikely event that is heavily dependent on your type of grass - you can always just rake your leaves straight into your garden, no bagging required.

"From a gardening perspective, fallen leaves offer a double benefit," said the NWF. "Leaves form a natural mulch that helps suppress weeds and at the same time fertilize the soil as they break down. Why spend money on mulch and fertilizer when you can make your own?"

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