By Pamela Collins

As spring approaches, we all get anxious to go outside and enjoy the warmer air after a long winter. We can’t resist getting out our rakes to clean up the garden beds full of leaves and other natural debris that has blown in. DON’T DO IT! Try to resist that urge a few weeks longer. There are so many insects, bees and other larvae hunkering down under the leaves getting ready to emerge and develop. They are beneficial to our ravine and natural areas so let’s give them a chance!

It is best to wait until the temperature is consistently around 10C before removing anything. You will likely be adding extra mulch or fertilizer to the garden beds anyway and leaves are natural mulch. Instead, take the opportunity to inspect your landscape, especially if your garden or home is close to a ravine, for any evidence of slope failure.

Things to look for:

  • tilting or cracking of concrete floors or foundations
  • separation of joints on built structures
  • tilting decks, patios or other structures moving in relation to the main house
  • leaning trees, retaining walls or fences
  • soil moving away from foundations
  • new cracks or unusual bulges in the ground
  • springs, seeps or saturated ground in areas that you didn’t see last year.

When you do start your cleanup, dispose of your yard waste properly. Avoid throwing compost, leaves, gardening debris or garbage into the ravine. Anything we dump or pile down our ravine  can smother natural vegetation, spread invasive plants, prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground, and affect the natural drainage on the slope.

Instead, bag it up for collection by the city –  except for invasive species. Things like garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, periwinkle and goutweed should never be thrown into a natural area. These should be put into black garbage bags and put into your garbage bin.

Did You Know?

The Ravine and Natural Feature Protection Bylaw applies to private and public natural areas in the City of Toronto. This bylaw is in place to protect, manage and conserve ravines, slopes and natural features. The bylaw applies to all trees, regardless of size or species or property lines.

Some properties may have one part covered by the Ravine and Natural Feature Protection Bylaw and another part covered by the Private Tree Bylaw.

If you are planning any outdoor construction such as patios or landscaping, you should know that any activity that could lead to tree injury or destruction or any alteration to the grade of your property must be reviewed and authorized by the city’s Urban Forestry department and a permit must be obtained.

If you are planning changes to your ravine property, you should contact Urban Forestry at the City of Toronto. You can obtain more information on how to proceed, including specifications for construction near trees, the bylaws and details of the permit process at