The importance of feeding your soil (or why not to rake)

When we first move into our house we inherited a gardener who was very old-school in his methods.  His idea of a job well done was a cleanly-raked garden with all the leaves, twigs and plant matter bagged for the Municipality to collect.  As a consequence of this, the soil was sandy, red in colour and pretty much lifeless (see the before shot).

Over the past few years we have weened him off this way of thinking and replaced it will the mantra that everything that falls off the trees and plants should end up in the soil.  Each time I trim back the shrubs or thin out some plants, the off-cuts also end up on the ground.  Slowly the soil has changed back to a brown, moist, earthy colour and has started to smell, well, like nature (see the after shot).  I have started to notice loads more insects inhabiting the garden and I’m sure, just below the surface, are a million and one worms.

I’m reading Pitta Joffe’s Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants and she has section where she calls for the protection of our soil. She writes:

“Don’t sweep up and then proceed to throw away fallen leaves, dried and faded flowers, fruits, small twigs, etc.  Apart from the fact that this is a totally misdirected use of energy, it is also the equivalent to throwing away bags of compost … Mulch is nature’s way of feeding plants, conserving moisture and protecting the soil surface and structure.”

The soil before the intervention.

The soil before the intervention.

The leaves we didn't rake up.

The leaves we didn't and won't rake up.

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4 Responses to The importance of feeding your soil (or why not to rake)

  1. Sonya February 16, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks for that tip Smile – it is so obvious, but I have to say I’ve been making this obvious error until this very day… it makes perfect sense that everything remain where it is… I shall be changing my ways after this…

  2. Niall McNulty February 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    My grandpa always used to put his grass clippings on his rosebeds because, he told me, it attracted the worms.

  3. shaggy January 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with this more. When I used to work as a landscaper here in Holland, I used to get into trouble for leaving too many leaves lying around…. (my reason was exactly as yours is Niall)

    The municipality should hardly have to take any green refuse from your garden, everything has its use…

  4. Ross January 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    You should try convincing my garden service clients that its better to leave the leaves and not till the soil!
    I think I’ve only had a handful of takers…I think I’ll send them to you for proof?

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