Leaf It Out Mate
Words by Jessica Peace
Give me a reason to be lazy and I’ll take it, however, raking leaves is something that has always seemed unnecessary to me; if only because I like to stomp on them (that crunching sound!), kick them and sometimes throw them at people – friends, mostly. BUT besides getting my own autumnal rocks off, there is a bigger reason to be lazy, NATURE.
DROP THE BEAT. Green – Yellow – Red – Dead.
Know your plant words, ‘deciduous’ just means plants that drop their leaves at the end of summer and remain starkers until spring – Plant world exhibitionists or ‘naturists’ if you like.
The big words: ‘chlorophyll’ – the green; ‘carotene’ – the yellow; ‘anthocyanin’ – the red.
Just as we can feel a bit knackered when it’s dark at 4pm, deciduous trees also lack energy and stop producing chlorophyll, this reduces the green leaf colour. The yellow carotenes that are normally overshadowed by the green are finally allowed a little face time. Before the leaf drops, the sugar which has spent the summer happily pumping through trunk to leaf and back gets trapped by a corky layer of cells at the leaf stem. The sugars soon convert to anthocyanins and turn the leaf red before it falls. Natch.
SO WHY LEAVE THEM?
Piles of leaves provide winter homes for many tiny creatures including invertebrates and hiding amphibians whilst they snuggle down for a long old hibernate. I might have to curb my stomping and throwing behaviour. Sorry frogs and toads out there.
Once the leaves have fallen to the ground, not only do they up the style anti of any lawn but nutrients from the leaf leaches into the soil as it decays, acting as a free, organic fertiliser. Mufasa. Circle of life mate. A thick layer of leaves will also act as a ‘mulch’, retaining warmth and moisture in the soil.
THE GARDENLESS GAFF
Still do your bit. Leave the leaves naturally fallen on your pots and down their sides (or snatch a handful on the way home), to put back nutrients into the compost and give homes to any gate crashers that might have crawled in.
Too many leaves in a pond will turn the water brown as the decomposing leaves suck the oxygen out of the water. Some of the silt – the mucky brown stuff, is helpful for the frogs and newts during hibernation. Clean out the silt and debris once every five years.
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