Summer’s empire is falling. Each gust or breeze rents shingles from the green cathedral above me. The burnt leaves tumble and twirl effortlessly from great heights. A flash of brilliance before being snuffed out on the ground. Leaves have a purpose well beyond the green days of spring and summer. In their decay, the crackling, crumbling leaves benefit the soil, insects, and wildlife. If left alone, it takes about 6-12 months for a leaf to break down into rich organic nutrients needed for a healthy soil. During the decomposing process, the dense leafy blanket will provide a cover for the soil, natural foods, and critters. The leaf litter also retains ground moisture and slows down the run off from rain storms. In winter, birds can be observed rummaging through the leafy mess for fallen seeds and buried bugs. Mammals, like mice and deer will find nuts amidst the leaves. Squirrels will gather leaves to stuff their winter nests. The layers of leaves will also harbor insects like spiders, snails, slugs, beetles, worms, caterpillars, and the larvae of Fireflies. Amphibians, like Snakes, Salamanders, and Wood Frogs can find shelter under the insulating leaves throughout the winter. Leaves are a valuable natural resource. Don’t bag them. Don’t blow them. Let them be. Through decay, leaves will lay the beginnings of a natural foundation for your yard.