Right, a rant. But I’ll make it a very small one.. and begin with a positive. There definitely is a change for the better in the way gardening is being approached these days; taking into account again the wider ecologistical (claiming that word for my own) practices that were once routine but long since discarded, and allowing nature to play a larger role in our so often otherwise prescribed and sterile ideas of how a garden should look.
However, having worked in ‘high end’ garden maintenance not so long ago, it seems there is still a common and baffling aversion to allowing leaves to fulfil their intended after-life destiny. Still deemed aesthetically displeasing, so often garden owners and parkland officers want their annual Autumn drop to be hidden, bagged or removed altogether. The result is simply that the same trees that shed them are having to go without their biggest and most essential feed of the year. The ecology is amazingly simple: no longer necessary for photosynthesis during Winter, the leaves are sealed off, die and drop, rotting down back into the ground and releasing nutrients back into the soil, ready for consumption by their creator. It’s one of the fundamental processes that have sustained our woodlands for millennia.
On top of this (or underneath), a huge range of creatures depend on leaf litter for survival, such as beetles, earthworms, hedgehogs and overwintering insects like ladybirds. And if not for any of these reasons, do it for the free mulch! It’ll keep the weeds down, enrich the soil and retain moisture for the dry times.
There we are.