A theme to be continued in this blog, working with nature seems like a no-brainer, but so many of our environmental and societal woes are due to working in direct contravention to the ways that nature has dictated for smooth sailing. I was reminded of this just this morning. Driving through Chastain Park, I saw a large group of people, kids and adults, busy on the MLK holiday in a public service project to help this oft-used public park. Noble gestures! But among them were two guys with gas-driven blowers, hard at work at scouring the ground bare by removing the leaves, which others were busy bagging up to be taken away. Why is there a misconception that leaves are bad?? Bare ground is prone to erosion, and the loss of topsoil in this country’s developed areas is an epidemic. Healthy topsoil takes years to build, and erosion washes it into streams, where it smothers small plants and animals and clogs waterways. Without the buffer of a mulch layer to slow the passage of rainfall, creeks become scoured by the increased speed and volume of runoff. Bare soil allows seeds to wash right off instead of getting nestled down in mulch to have a chance to sprout and grow, and the bases of plants are left exposed to the elements — which right now are pretty unkind to growing things (hard freeze, 20s expected tonight). You wouldn’t want to be standing out there tonight naked, why would you subject the roots of bushes and trees to the same fate? The falling of leaves is part of the cycle of carbon and other nutrients to rejuvenate the ecosystem — when you remove a part of that budget, there is a lack. The leaves provide cover to shield permanent growth from harsh winter conditions, and in the meantime the nutrients slowly break down into forms that can be assimilated by plants come spring for new growth. Remove that cover, and plants are weakened — remove the nutrients, and the plants will be further weakened unless the nutrients are replaced with fertilizers. Don’t bag and remove leaves! On grass, the best solution is to mow with a mulching mower to shred the leaves for easier breakdown and slow fertilization of the lawn or field. If you must remove the leaves from the grass, move them as short a distance as possible and use them to shield plants and add to the nutrient budget. But leaves are our friends! Bare ground is not a good thing! Nature abhors a vacuum, and doesn’t like bare dirt either! When in doubt, work with nature!