Hi. I am surrounded by oak trees. I have a perennial garden with no grass. I have seen a number of articles suggesting that leaving leaves over winter is a good practice for insects and the garden. Would you recommend this?
Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.
Yes, you can leave oak leaves to overwinter on your perennial garden.
By leaving fallen leaves and standing dead plant material in your garden, you provide winter cover and food for pollinators such as butterflies, beetles, moths, as well as other invertebrates. In all but the warmest climates, butterflies use leaf litter for winter cover.
A thick layer of leaves will insulate your perennials against cold winter weather.
The leaves left in the garden will decompose naturally and fertilize the soil. They may also deter weed growth.
There is no need to remove the leaves in the spring. Most plants have no problem growing through the leaf litter. If you decide you must remove them, wait until tomato planting time to minimize the impact on the pollinators your garden hosted over winter.
For more about leaving leaves: