Suntrap Garden

Tidy Up or Leave Alone?


Imagine a long pile of leaves blown into the wall next to a pavement – don’t you want to revert to childhood, jump in, drag your feet and kick leaves everywhere? I know I do and actually if I think no one is looking I admit I still do it. But in my garden fallen leaves are not fun they are just a nuisance that I feel the need to tidy every weekend at the moment.


So ‘To tidy or Not to Tidy’ is the question; make your own mind up with the pro’s and con’s below:


• When gathered, fallen leaves from deciduous trees make marvellous leaf mould. Collect them in leaf mould bags or use black bags, make some holes in the filled bags with a fork and hide them round the back of the shed for a couple of years. The resulting leaf mould is a lovely product, perfect for mulching plants, or for mixing in alpine or orchid compost

• Clearing leaves from the ground scrupulously at this time of year reduces the number of places that over wintering slugs, caterpillars, cut worms and grubs can hang out. Therefore you are likely to reduce some pest numbers just by being tidy.

• Lots of leaves that fall from our shrubs, trees and rose bushes will be covered in fungal spores, by removing these leaves we are helping to stop recontamination by the fungus. Composting the leaves tends to kill off a lot of these spores.

• Tidying up leaves and plant debris burns up calories; – so if you do a weekly garden workout you will be able to burn off all those extra calories and earned yourself a warm cup of coffee and a cake.


Or Not to Tidy?

• Clearing all your leaves and plant rubbish may get rid of a number of garden pests but it also discourages the ‘Good Guys’ such as ladybirds and lacewings which love plant debris to over winter in.

• Clearing removes an insulating layer from the surface of the soil, which can expose buds, rhizomes and bulbs to frost and winter wet.

• Nature does her own composting and gradually over the winter much of the dead plant material will be worked back into the soil. When you finally do your spring clean around March time you will find you have far less bulk to get rid of whether to the compost bin or wherever.
So make you own mind up and don’t feel guilty whichever you choose.

Taken from a column published in November in Scotland on Sunday by Ann Burns, Team Leader Horticulture and Landscape Construction, Oatridge College


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