Leave the Leaves, Turn Out the Lights

Most people are aware of the global biodiversity crisis, the shocking declines of insects, birds, and other animals, yet many don’t connect it with life in our comfortable suburbs. Because everything is connected, what we do at home is more important than you might think. Anyone with a house and yard can take two actions that will immediately increase biodiversity by helping the creatures that share our neighborhoods: leave the leaves and turn out the lights.  I’ve never understood why sensible people would remove autumn leaves from under their trees and bushes, only to then pay good money to add mulch and fertilizer. Fallen leaves are nature’s combination fertilizer and mulch, full of exactly the nutrients trees and shrubs need. And regarding “messiness,” nobody walks through the forest preserves in autumn wishing someone would clear out all those darn fallen leaves. Those leaves are what make the outdoors comfortable for many animals, providing shelter, food, and habitat. Fireflies d

Ecological Gardening

At one time all gardening was ecological, based on organic inputs and using mostly native plants. During the twentieth century, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and the standardized use of exotic plants, changed gardening practice to the extent that gardening could be very harmful to the ecosystem. Ecological gardening encompasses philosophy and practice that reverts to the old idea that a garden should be part of and work with nature to create beauty and grow food, using modern ecological knowledge and organic methods.

An ecological garden can be a 20,000-acre prairie restoration, a 100-acre organic farm, a 1/4-acre suburban yard, or a 25x125-foot city lot. Goals and methods may differ, but the central philosophy of managing the land while contributing to the health of the biotic community, or ecosystem, remains the same.

Some attributes of ecological gardens:
  • They are beautiful
  • They conserve, restore and repeat (echo) the local landscape
  • They are true to place and ecosystem
  • They use mostly or all native plants (except in agriculture)
  • They are sensitive to the needs of and provide habitat for other species
  • They build soil health
  • They use organic inputs and sequester carbon
  • They help manage water