Owl Pellet: Leaftopia is Your Own Backyard and Front Yard Too
Ah, autumn with its brightly-dressed trees, delicious earthy scents, and crisp air. What a weekend, am I right? It is the season when I am least likely to get anything actually done because I can’t stop walking the trails, the roads, the meadows, the sidewalks. Katie Puppy, WFTA K9 ranger, is always in the back seat, her head out the window, suggesting places for us to stop which is basically everywhere.
So what’s my point? Note that I did not say I am fond of the sounds of autumn because I am not. Though evening sounds are as nice as ever– and a Great Horned Owl call woke me up last night–the day sounds now are of lawn service companies blowing every last leaf off of perfect green lawns. And with them, the queen bees, the caterpillars, and the acorns that feed a plethora of wildlife. I am absolutely certain that in 20 years, we shall look back on leaf-blowing as one of the silliest things ever along with ascots and donkeyball. We cause our own problems, that much is clear.
And before getting yourself all riled up about private property and your right to blow up your own lawn or trees or whatever, I am not proposing a by-law or restriction. I am simply asking us all to do better. I realize that my style of lawn care (no pesticides ever, a safe zone for clover and dandelions, leaftopia) is not for all. I still mow the lawn myself with an electric mower. I grew up mowing the lawn and I love doing it because I think about life as I walk back and forth, and no one bugs me, and I watch as the tiny frogs and toads bound out of the way, and it makes me happy. Not everyone is so delighted; I get that.
There will soon come a moment when the three mother trees on my property (there is a fourth, a huge white pine which obviously is not deciduous), two red oaks and a white oak will drop their leaves, seemingly all at once. And these don’t get mowed in, but rather piled at their bases in an expanding ring of caterpillar joy. If you want to see how I feel about oaks, please read this past Owl. I love them.
So what’s my point? Consider doing things a little differently. Or sending me hate mail. You choose.
The most recent edition of explore, the Mass Audubon quarterly magazine sums it all up pretty well and with nice photos. Are you a member? You should be. Here, with all credit to them is how to “Skip the Autumn Cleanup.” Or at the very least, leave some leaf litter around the yard:
- Young queen bees survive the winter in the ground under leaf litter until spring, when they will emerge to start new hives. To help bees, leave the deep leaf litter around the bases of trees, shrubs, and perennial gardens. Snuggle up, queens, and have a snooze.
- When you throw away leaves, you’re actually throwing away insect larvae and eggs. Most butterfly and moth species do not migrate but rather overwinter in leaf litter. Who knows the woolly bear with its brown and black stripes which “predict” winter’s strength? Fuzzy wuzzies, as they were known to me, actually hide between old plant stems, flowers, grass,, and leaves until spring. Some butterflies overwinter in their adult butterfly forms in sheltered places like under bark or in a woodpile. They do not love being blown out of their hiding spots.
- Birds rule. Not only are those dopes the Bue Jays taking away acorns from oaks in places they soon forget (up to 5000 of them) and bringing about new oaks, but they’re not the only ones eating up acorns. Squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys, wood ducks, and American crows all eat them. So leave the acorns, and then leave the twigs and plant fibers too– American robins use them to build their spring nests.
You can mow in leaves (which I do until the big oaks overwhelm the mower) and leave a large swath of untouched leaf litter around the trunks of trees. Caterpillars drop directly down and hide. Try to stop your spring cleanup until mid-April or until the temperature is consistently over 50 degrees when the native insects start to move about and leave their winter shelters.
Think about our insects and birds and butterflies. And our own ears. Right now, at 7:25 am on a Monday, I can hear those leaf blowers going.
If you read all this and still don’t care, know that the Weston Brush Dump is open now on Saturdays for the next seven weeks. You can read more here.