Winter is a difficult season for wildlife, but some simple steps can keep your yard a healthy habitat.
Add native plants this fall. The cool temperatures and reliable rainfall mean the plants will be less stressed as they won’t lose as much water from their leaves. Plus, the plants have a chance to get settled and establish new roots giving them a head start on growth the following spring. Most trees, shrubs and perennials will thrive but avoid planting evergreens in late fall as harsh winds can make them more susceptible to drying out when the soil freezes.
If necessary, fertilize lawns in the fall. Lawns start to concentrate on growing new roots and grass plants when the weather gets cool. Fertilizing in the fall leads to a healthier lawn in the spring. Test your soil before fertilizing though – most lawns won’t need any extra nutrients.
Leave the Leaves! You can keep the fallen leaves on your lawn if you pass over them once or twice with a mulching or rotary mower to shred them into smaller pieces. Leaves can be used as mulch in garden beds or under trees or consider composting them with some grass clippings to make your own mulch for the spring. Many animals rely on fallen leaves for food and shelter including turtles, toads and many moths and butterfly caterpillars that overwinter in them.
Leave flower heads and stalks. The seeds found in grass and flower heads are important winter food supplies for songbirds. Plant stems provide cozy winter nesting locations for many beneficial insects – wait till spring to cut back.