(USA TODAY) - Put down the rake, and back away from the leaves.
Dry, dead leaves may be unsightly to your neighbors, but they are great wildlife habitat for a slew of creatures, according to David Mizejewski, a Naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation.
Each year the NWF, reminds people that there are benefits to letting leaves decompose naturally.
Here are a few reasons why it makes sense to put your rake away:
Leaving your leaves could save you money:
"Leaves are nature's natural mulch and fertilizer," Mizejewski said. "When you rake all the leaves away, you are removing that natural benefit to your garden and lawns – then people turn around and spend money to buy mulch."
If you feel like you have to clean up your yard, Mizejewski said people can use their leaves like they would mulch, and move them to a garden bed or area that is more aesthetically pleasing.
Wildlife depends on your leaves:
Butterflies and songbirds alike depend on leaf litter, according to Mizejewski.
"Over winter months, a lot of butterflies and moths as pupa or caterpillar are in the leaf litter, and when you rake it up you are removing the whole population of butterflies you would otherwise see in your yard," he said.
Without the insects in the leaf litter, you also risk driving away birds that might have come to your yard looking for food to feed their offspring int he spring.
Leaves and yard waste take up a lot of space in landfills:
Food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30% of what we throw away, according to the EPA. So, letting your leaves decompose isn’t just a time-saver for you, but it's also environmentally friendly, Mizejewski.
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