I don’t know about you but this year’s oddly cool July had me thinking about autumn far earlier than I would’ve liked. Thoughts of autumn bring recognition of a changing landscape full of flowers past their prime, withering cucumber plants and other raggedy landscape items.

This time of year is bittersweet – the warm sunny days tending those seeds and nurturing them into plants are quickly growing shorter as summer fades. The lively green that once painted Kentucky’s lawns and public spaces grows a bit more yellow while spindly plants seemingly beg to be added to the Herbie. Erasing evidence of summer when autumn rolls around is expected by all but the most lazy gardeners and groundskeepers, but I urge you to refrain from giving in to that lawn-keeping social pressure.

800px-MockvalleyWildlife, particularly our bird friends, benefit greatly from the drying plants and seeds that our once-lush yards can provide. To clear these away as soon as they appear deprives local wildlife of both food sources and materials to shelter through the winter. With increasing urbanization and suburban expansion, allowing room for other non-human animals is vital to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Leaves can be turned easily into mulch or composted for flowerbeds and vegetable gardens, while seed pods provide continuous feeding for birds as other food sources like berries vanish. Bluegrass Greensource offers year-round lawncare tips to help you keep your yard in shape while reducing your ecological footprint.

The Humane Society offers tips that can reduce your autumn to-do list while also improving the lives of your backyard visitors which include things such as skipping the raking, leaving those dried flowers for their seed pods, creating a brush pile, and leaving water out for animals as sources become scarce.

Being a “lazy” gardener need not be a shameful experience when one considers the benefits to our local ecosystems. In fact, reducing the amount of autumn lawn chores has the added bonus of freeing up precious time – and what person couldn’t use that?

Off the top, there are many things one could do with the time freed of fall chores. Instead of chopping down those plants for hours, use the time instead to explore local ecosystems with your child, go for a long walk, catch a movie at the Kentucky Theatre, run at the Arboretum, veg out on the couch with a good book, or share your new lazy gardening philosophy with your neighbors over coffee. In addition to improving the quality of your own life, you’ll also be improving the lives of our feathered and furry friends this fall. And for that, I’m sure they would thank us.

Lisa Conley is an Outreach Specialist for Bluegrass Greensource.

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 22, 2013.