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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some leaf litter is good for your yard

At this time of year, many homeowners rake up withered plants and fallen leaves out of habit. But nature puts those dead leaves and withered plants there for a very good reason. A moderate amount should stay right where it is. They're a natural source of carbon and other nutrients.

Bare, exposed ground actually encourages “weeds”.  Normal plant debris, left on the ground, becomes an organic humus, resulting in looser soil and giving your soil an ability to hold more water and nutrients, and resist weedy growth. Plant debris also acts like mulch. Water doesn’t evaporate as fast, so your water bill should be lower. Your plants will grow bigger and better. You can buy humus in plastic bags every year, or let it accumulate naturally for free.  It’s your choice.
Please keep in mind that I’m talking about a “normal” amount of plant debris and leaves. If they pile up by an outside wall or on a sidewalk, by all means clean up. (If you own a rake, which I don't)

For years, I’ve shredded excess plant debris into tiny pieces, and put it right back on the landscape, using my lawn mower. Birds, butterflies and small animals utilize this plant debris. Harmless insects do too!  They serve as food (remember the food chain?) for the aforementioned birds as well as encouraging frequent visits by migrating species.
A word of advice:  be sensitive to your neighbors’ preferences. Take some time to explain why your landscape is “natural”, not manicured. Even if they don’t agree with you, they should know that you have a long-term plan. Your landscape won’t be blamed on laziness or neglect. It’s very ecology-minded too.