Consider wildlife and wildfires when cleaning your garden in the fall

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Today’s MI Environment article is courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Do you have a garden that looks a little untidy with hanging wooden sticks, fallen leaves, and dead plants?

A mountain of autumn leaves.

Don’t worry too much. Nature likes things a little on the wild side. As you begin your annual fall cleanup, use these tips to help wildlife and prevent wildfires.

First, the easy part. Move fall tasks to your spring to-do list. Avoid cutting dead plant stems until the weather returns to 50 degrees. Leave it alone over the winter to protect your perennials. The hollow spaces in the stems give small creatures and pollinators a place to hibernate. Learn about the benefits of “Leaving Leaves.”

Some local ordinances allow you to burn fallen leaves or remove them by the side of the road, but why not use dead leaves as free mulch? They insulate plants, slow erosion, and keep garden soil in place. Turtles, toads, salamanders, moths, and butterflies all spend the winter hiding under leaves.

You can also use the leaves to enrich next year’s garden.

“To organize your leaves, collect them and put them in a trash can or pile to turn them into nutrient-rich compost,” says Aaron Hiday, compost coordinator for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Get composting tips from EGLE.

If you plan to burn yard waste, check if conditions are fire-safe and know your local fire codes. Even if it’s cold, a burning permit is always required if the ground is not completely covered with snow.

“Most wildfires start when people burn yard waste out of control,” says Paul Rogers, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. “Always keep your fire under control, avoid burning it on windy days, and never leave your fire unattended, even for a moment.”

Burn only natural materials such as sticks, branches, and dry leaves. Burning trash is illegal and releases harmful chemicals into the air. Let’s learn about wild burning.

Obtain a burn permit. Residents of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula should check the status at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit or call 866-922-2876 (866-922-BURN). Southern Michigan residents should check with their local municipality or fire department. Be aware of local smoke and fire ordinances, which may be more stringent than state ordinances.



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