If, like me, you aren’t terribly keen on gardening in cold weather then you probably might still have a garden covered in autumn leaves. Traditionaly amongst gardeners, this is the ideal time to collect autumn leaves to burn in a bonfire -but before you consider doing the same thing – perhaps you should think of the benefits of not doing anything with your leaves or perhaps utilising the fallen leaves to help your local eco system in your garden.
Most insects and small animals use the fallen leaves to take cover from the harsh winter. In fact I collect some of the leaves and leave them in heaps or stuff them into nooks and crevises where the local wildlife will take advantage of the shelter. This time of year is ideal for worms and other small insects to stock up and feed on the rotting vegetation that is so lacking to them in our manicured gardens the rest of the year – in so doing they revitalise and reinvigorate the soil. Leaving leaves around your garden not only helps them but also insulates your garden from frost and snow. In spring of this year, I also noticed how few weeds there were, presumably because they had little light to establish themselves.
Burning is not only harmful in releasing carbon into our atmosphere, it is also a waste of natural and free composting material. Last year, I collected black bin-liners full of fallen leaves and made holes in the bags so that moisture could get in and after leaving the bags in a corner over the year I now have plenty of leaf compost for my seedlings next year. It is important that you compost masses of leaves separately from your normal compost bin as leaves require mould to be broken down as opposed to the normal bacteria that breaks down normal compost.
I know it’s cold, but I know I should be getting out there and giving our natures friends a warm helping hand as well.