The shifting of the seasons from Summer to Fall bring forth feelings of nostalgic yearning as the warmer weather turns colder and windier. Finding ourselves inside more and more, there is one outdoor activity homeowners still have on their task list this season: fall cleanup. Fall cleanup often is done so out of respect to neighbors and neighborhood aesthetics. However, cleaning and clearing your lawn strips away essential environmental benefits from wildlife, garden plants, and the soil. I recently had the opportunity to interview Paul Brown, owner of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Our conversation challenged the status quo of fall cleanup and how homeowners can keep the environment and their neighbors in mind.

One thing Paul wishes homeowners would do more of is utilizing the fallen leaf litter in their garden beds. This free fertilizer not only compounds the minerals present in your soil, improving its health, but it also serves as habitat for traveling butterflies and other insects to lay their eggs. Paul also touched on his professional experiences and observations when working with two clients:

“Not aggressively removing leaf litter had a huge impact on pollinator presence. We underestimate how much pollinator life comes out of leaf litter over the winter.”

Paul also recommends that if using native plants in your lawn or garden settings, stay mindful of whether or not your plants propagate by reseeding. Consider cutting off the seed head before it deposits onto the ground if you don’t want more of a specific plant. Make sure that if you are cutting back you leave at least 12” of stem, from the ground, to ensure adequate habitat for insects looking to lay eggs over the winter.

For the 2022 Plan It Native registrants, more pertinent information as it relates to fall cleanup and ecological landscape maintenance is available! Check out Paul Brown’s Plan It Native presentation and Paula Diaz’s presentation on supporting keystone species! (You will not be able to view the content of the links if you are not a 2022 Plan It Native registrant)