Messy Yards = Happy Birds (and Insects!)

For those of you who have been putting off raking leaves, pulling old plants, and cleaning up your brush piles: I have some good news for you. Keeping your yard in a slightly “messy” state is actually a great way to help out local in- sects and birds. Here are a few things you can do this fall and winter to maintain an ecologically healthy yard:

1. Leave the leaves! If you can, avoid raking altogether. Leaf litter provides important winter cover for many in- sects. Butterflies, moths, bees, spiders, snails, worms, beetles, millipedes (and more) all live inside and under fallen leaves. These insects are important food sources for birds, amphibians, turtles, and small mammals. Check out Xerces.org for more information about insects, leaf litter, and their #LeaveTheLeaves campaign.

2. Don’t send leaves to the landfill: If you do decide you need to rake up leaves in your yard, don’t bag them and send them to the landfill. Instead, drop them in a flower bed or around your landscaping shrubs. Leaves help fertilize the soil as they break down.

3. Build a brush pile: Keep fallen branches around and build a brush pile for birds and other wildlife. You can even add your Christmas tree to the pile. Birds will use the pile to take cover from predators, find protection from the elements, and use as a staging area while feed- ing at your bird feeders.

4. Keep native perennials standing: Even though they might not look as pretty into fall and winter, try and leave your native perennial plants standing in the yard. Gold- finches and other birds will spend the winter feeding off of seed heads from plants such as Sunflowers if they are left standing in the yard.

In this instance, doing less work is actually better for the environment. Be lazy this winter and keep those leaves and plants around!

- Cooper Farr