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Leaf Litter as Natural Mulch for Home Garden

Updated on December 6, 2018
Babu Mohan profile image

I am a marketing professional holding a post graduate degree in Management. I am passionate about my little garden.

Mulch Options Considered

I firmly believe in a greener approach to gardening. So when I considered the many options available for the right mulch, I opted for the organic mulch. I did not like the plastic and rubber options as it was against my principle to use anything synthetic.

I would not have minded the gravel option as it is as natural as you can get. For some reason, I thought that the gravel layer may not improve fertility of the soil. We tried organic mulch layer only on a trial basis more than two years ago and now we are very happy with the results.

I always try to use only the natural options for my home garden. I even avoid pesticides as the toxins used can cause harm to human beings and avian visitors accidentally coming into contact with it.

The greener approach to gardening should continue in everything we do. We should simultaneously adapt approaches to conserve water, energy and other resources. We should never take anything more from nature than what we can give. Thus we can live in harmony with nature.

Garden Area Covered with Mulch

Taken by me on Oct 2018.
Taken by me on Oct 2018.

Initial Challenges to Organic Approach

Initially, there were a few challenges to overcome. I had to convince my wife that the garden would not look untidy if we stop removing the fallen leaves from the garden floor. She was of the view that it looked ill maintained.

In a true democracy, we need majority to support our point of view.. So I mustered the support of my daughter who vetoed in my favor. Thanks to democracy, the mulch layer has managed to survive for over a couple of years.

Occasionally, few friends and relatives could pass a comment like "why is your garden so unclean?". But the good news is, most other people appreciate our organic gardening practices.

Black Millipede Makings Its Presence Known

Taken by me on Oct 2018
Taken by me on Oct 2018

Maintenance

The bigger trees in our garden shed enough leaves and flowers that we used to burn these off every week. So when I considered having a mulch layer, the plant waste became the natural choice. It was also possible that I used organic mulch as an excuse for reducing my work. I don't have to periodically clean the garden.

There are a few considerations one has to keep in mind. The fallen leaves and twigs should not build too much volume on the garden floor. If it does, we would have a handful of problems to deal with, fire hazard being the chief one. Additionally a very thick layer of plant waste becomes an ideal hiding ground for snakes and other poisonous insects. We would not want to be walking there with such fears. Luckily, the plant waste gets digested at the right rate that there is no build-up in volume after a point.

The digestion of plant waste is enhanced by the presence of earthworms, centipedes, millipedes, ants, other insects and micro organisms. Their very presence enriches the soil and makes it more porous. I like any kind of living form thriving under the leaf litter as these are all beneficial to the ecosystem. I consider any living being other than rats, mosquitoes, cockroaches and homo sapiens as beneficial to ecosystem.

The leaf litter does not enrich the soil directly but the various life forms thriving under the mulch layer enriches the soil. So one should be happy when they see such insects and worms.

I make it a point to remove specific items like tree bark or the twings from garden floor. These tend to attract a colony of termites and spoil the look of the garden.

I also make it a point to remove the leaf litter near the building walls. This is being done to insulate the home from any possible fire hazards in garden. It is enough if we leave a gap of around half a meter from the walls after which we can start the mulch layer.

Ecosystem

I consider any living being other than rats, mosquitoes, cockroaches and homo sapiens as beneficial to ecosystem.

Maintaining a Gap Between Wall and Mulch Layer

Taken by me on Sep 2018.
Taken by me on Sep 2018.

Main Benefits

My garden has become virtually pest free and the fungal attacks that used to attack few plants have become non-existent. I see this as a result of a well balanced ecosystem where multiple living organisms thrive as opposed to earlier times.

Coconuts form an important part of South Indian Cuisine and our entire requirement is met by the three trees in our garden. Two of the three coconut trees are on the front yard and the third one is on the back yard. We could easily see the improvement in the number and sizes of coconuts that we get from our front yard trees. Our front yard is covered with mulch but the back yard is not.

Another major benefit is the reduction in effort needed to maintain the garden. For a lazy man like me, less effort is a huge incentive to go organic.There is reduction in cost too as we would save on money we would otherwise be spending on fertilizers and pesticides.

Going Organic

For a lazy man like me, less effort is a huge incentive to go organic.

Secondary Benefits

A mulch layer is usually applied to the soil in a garden to serve as a natural manure. It also helps in retaining moisture, reduces the growth of weeds and enhances the aesthetic appeal of the garden.

Water in the soil not exposed to direct sunlight would have less evaporation loss. This helps in reducing the quantum of watering that plants need. Weeds have practically vanished from the area covered by mulch.

Aesthetic appeal is a disputable benefit. I personally like it and some of my friends agree too. Some others do not prefer leaf litter on the garden floor because it appears untidy to them. I feel that the different hues of fallen leaves and flowers on the floor add a distinct character to our garden.

Please share your views and suggestions.

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