Better Use for Yard Waste
Keep your cut branches and twigs at least till the end of May, so that cavity-nesting bees and hibernating butterflies can safely emerge. If possible leave them in a sunny spot.
Pile up all your sticks to make a bee hotel.
If you then like to make raised beds, check out how to make Hugelbeds the permaculture-way with all your sticks buried under soil to make it very fertile.
Keep your and possibly your neighbour's Christmas trees over winter to create safe winter hiding spots for birds. Securely, stand them up against a fence.
Once they lose their needles use them to make a brush pile. Piles of brush are favourite spots for thrushes, wrens and sparrows.
Keep dead trees standing, they feed insects and woodpeckers.
Use your fall leaves to mulch your flower beds. Bumblebees and other pollinators make their nests in them.
Replace wood chips with leaves, ground-nesting bees can emerge through a layer of leaves, but not through wood chips.
Benefits for animals:
The leaves provide shelter to many overwintering butterflies and the bumblebee.
Some caterpillars hide under the leaves during the day, e.g. the Great Spangled Fritillary.
Leaves are a great food source for many creatures.
They provide abundant nesting material.
They also provide habitat for a lot of predatory insects, keeping our unwanted pests at bay.
Free mulch benefits plants:
The leaves retain a huge amount of water, therefore, prevent flooding. They buffer the influence of wind and sun, this way, the soil stays moist much longer.
The leaves decompose to humus, that acts as free fertilizer. All important nutrients and minerals get recycled.
A layer of leaves suppresses weeds.
Leaf litter is an important component of a healthy ecosystem.
Please don't rake up your leftover winter leaves in spring and deposit them in the city yard waste. They are full of butterflies and bees waiting for the temperatures to warm up enough to emerge.