Love me, love my leaf litter

Leaves. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em – they’re part and parcel of planting new hedging, trees and managing your established plants. Whilst you’ll be wise to clear off leaves from your lawns and pathways, think about leaving your leaf litter under your hedges and trees. There’s a world of wildlife beneath our feet.
Each year, the trees in a deciduous wood could lose around 2.5kg of leaves and tree debris per square metre. What happens next can create a healthy habitat for micro-organisms, small mammals and a moist mulch to enrich the roots of your growing and established plants.  So – leaf litter is good, right?

Millions of tiny invertebrates are busy underfoot, transforming leaf litter in a frenzy each year and making the rich soil base every plant loves.

minibeasts There are 3 stages a fallen leaf goes through: Firstly, tiny little springtail bugs set to work – nibbling and then excreting tiny parts of the leaves. Then the invertebrates kick in – millipedes, worms and fly larvae. They eat and process most of the leaf remains. Then microscopic fungi join in on the clean-up, tackling the tougher, stalky parts of the leaves. The result? A rich, soil-like material that provides up to three-quarters of the nutrients a tree needs each year.
MULCH The resulting leaf litter created by our minibeast friends is a “living soil” full of beneficial soil bacteria, fungi, and nematodes working together to build a healthy loam to nourish plants.
mining Most garden birds gain vital proteins from insects to feed their young. Birds will “mine” the leaf litter for insects.
MENU Leaf litter provides food and shelter for earthworms, bugs, millipedes and a host of other insect and wildlife pals plus spiders and all the essentials for toads and frogs, too.
MAMMALS Small mammals can benefit from a smattering of leaf cover beneath hedgerows and tree canopies. The base or bank of a hedge is a perfect hibernation spot for dormice, for example. Rather than dry, sheltered spots, they favour small depressions in the soil, often very moist and covered with a shallow blanket of leaf litter.

So, who’s with me? Let’s hear it for leaf litter – a frenzy of wildlife and insect activity, creating an enriched soil base for plants, just as nature intended (and one less job for you in the garden!)

Ready with new plants?

Don’t wait for leaf litter. Your newly-planted material won’t have generated its own leaf matter yet, so consider giving them the best possible start with Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi to enhance their root systems and Broadleaf P4 Water Storing Granules to reduce watering frequency by up to 75%.

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