06 October 2011

Where do all the Leaves go?

Well, obviously, some are broken down by alkaline hydrolysis, but more on that later. For the average person or not so average, with twelve acres of trees just around the back door and thousands more beyond, it is a question which will be pondered over the next few months. Where do they all go. Once, they were swept away by a team of gardeners with rakes. The fire heap was almost always lit in winter, and there were bonfires all along the ha-ha at Brooke Hall. Must have been a lovely sight. Now though, we don't do fires, or rakes particularly and yet the leaves must be dealt with.

Although there is a very scenic composting area hidden behind more trees, there is no heap of leaf mould there. This is because the leaves are turned into mulch in situ. Hence the constant round of blowing and mowing. The blowing is to push the leaves under hedges and out of crevices. Often the offending leaves are blown on to the lawn, not off it. This is so that they can be tackled by the mower. The resulting small pieces then get scattered into insignificance or they are left to rot a little, before being grabbed by worms and dragged down. The grass has the air and light it needs, and there isn't a nitrogen imbalance because the leaves are half-rotted before they become part of the soil again. Does this make sense?

Personally I enjoy scooping up dry leaves and pushing them into a bin liner before poking holes in it. This provides a rather limited supply of leaf mould one year later. The modern methods at Brooke Hall combined with this anti-mechanical approach only answer a very small part of the question of where all the leaves go, however. Which leads us on to Science with Peter, shortly.

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