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  • Writer's pictureMartin Ford

Fallen leaves are solid gold

Darwin studied earthworms for decades before he wrote his final paper concluding that earthworms are responsible for creating our soils – and it is soil that enables our plants to grow.

Hence, when we rake autumn leaves off our gardens or bag them for pick-up, we are throwing away that which is essential for worms to create rich and life-giving soils.

An acre of land can have a million worms but if there is no dead vegetation for them to eat and recycle, they will move on to ‘brighter pastures’. That loss degrades our garden’s soil, so why do we think it is necessary to remove them?

In North America, it has become a tradition to rake leaves off our lawn and onto the road – you will not see that in other cultures around the world.

In addition to making nutrients easily available in the soil by ‘processing’ organic leaf matter, a worm’s movement through the soil (often 2-3 feet down or more) leaves behind channels for drainage and paths for roots to quickly explore the soil and access the elements and water they need come springtime when new growth is most demanding.

As well, other organisms such as mycorrhizae and colloid-forming bacteria, which also require oxygen, are able to enter easily into these channels and thus deepen the dark soil profile that we know enables all life to thrive.

The accumulation of leaves on a lawn, if left for some time, will weaken the grass but not if the leaves are mowed and so turned into fine organic matter which is able to pass through the blades of grass and down into the soil surface where they are rapidly incorporated into the soil.

If leaves are placed on shrub beds and open garden soil they will act as a mulch – controlling weed growth over winter but gone by spring, leaving a loose friable soil ready for planting.

Additionally, when leaves are not raked onto the road, the work for the municipality is reduced and taxes are saved and we get to enjoy the beauty of their colours, along with the knowledge that we are doing the ‘right thing’ for the environment, our homes and the garden we love. 🏡


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