Let those leaves be

Spring is here, which means it’s the time of year when many gardeners look at their shriveled flower beds or leaf-covered yards and think, “How did I let it get this bad?”

I, too, used to look at the brown, sad remains of previous plant life in my garden and think “I should really clean this out, it looks terrible.” But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is giving us all a good reason to leave those leaves right where they fall.

According to the EPA’s website, many pollinators use old plant material to hibernate. “Pollinators overwinter in places like hollow stems, piles of wood and leaf litter,” states the EPA’s website. “Leave garden beds and other areas undisturbed until you see pollinator activity in the spring.”

Now that the bees are starting to buzz, the EPA recommends following these steps to help pollinators help our plants:

• Keep soil still and avoid tilling in areas that appear to have insect activity or where you’ve seen ground nesting pollinators in the past. When planting, leave some areas bare for ground nesting.
• Fill up your fountains and bird baths to provide a source of clean water for emerging pollinators.
• Do not use pesticides or herbicides as they may harm pollinators and their habitat.
• Incorporate a diverse mix of native plants best suited for your climate and region. Visit pollinator.org/guides for eco-regional planting guides.
• Create a garden debris area. Leave some sticks and stems in a pile year-round to provide habitat for pollinators.

So, the next time you look at that leaf pile or dried up remains from gardens’ past, just remember you’re assisting pollinators by not lifting a finger.

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