The Importance of Leaves (Particularly Left to Rot in the Ground)
Why we should stop tidying up our leaves and let them rot into the ground
Nature conservation is at the root of our work at LettsSafari. There are many things we routinely do that can also be accomplished in your backyard to build a wilder, more biodiverse and natural garden. Today we focus on keeping fallen leaves on the ground and in so doing improving the health of the soil, recycling much needed nutrients, supporting insects, worms and birds and enhancing carbon removal. Leaves can even play a role in reducing water runoff which is more important than ever given winter’s endless rain.
1. Nutrient Recycling: Fallen leaves decompose and turn into humus, enriching the soil with essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This natural process reduces the need for artificial fertilisers, which can be harmful to the environment. Soil nutrients are critical for the growth and development of plants and also support the growth and activity of various soil organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and earthworms. These organisms play a key role in nutrient cycling, breaking down organic matter, and improving soil structure.
2. Soil Health: Leaves help maintain soil structure and moisture. They act as a natural mulch, regulating soil temperature, retaining moisture, and protecting against erosion and compaction. A healthier soil provides better structure and better functioning below-ground ecosystems. Healthy soil is not only crucial for plant growth but also carbon removal.
3. Supporting Biodiversity: A layer of fallen leaves provides habitat and food for numerous small creatures, such as insects, worms and fungi. These organisms are essential for soil health and form the base of the food web, supporting birds, amphibians and other wildlife. It’s like a feeding ground for these little guys.
4. Carbon Removal: Leaves store carbon, and when they decompose, this carbon enriches the soil rather than being released into the atmosphere. The process helps mitigate climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Your beds, grasses and tree floor can become natural carbon sinks with the help of our little friends.
5. Water Conservation and Quality: Leaves help conserve water by reducing evaporation from the soil. They also play a role in water filtration, reducing runoff and preventing pollutants from entering waterways. If you can’t keep beavers then maybe an army of leaves can help manage your natural waterways!
6. Reducing Waste and Emissions: By leaving leaves on the ground, there is less need for bagging and transporting them to landfills, which reduces waste and cuts down on the emissions associated with leaf blowers, transport, and decomposition in landfills. Maybe it's time to retire the leaf blower - after all it is a leading killer of caterpillars.
7. Natural Beauty and Ecosystem Education: A natural leaf layer in gardens and public spaces can promote a more organic and wild aesthetic, which can be educational and promote a deeper connection with the natural world. Your garden could even become a mini LettsSafari!
There is little doubt that leaving fallen leaves on the ground supports a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem. Perhaps we should all try it this year. It could prove to be one of our most satisfying New Year’s resolutions.
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