The Forest Floor

Microbes in soil, habitat for insects, lizards, good fungi, leaf litter, the mycelium network…What does this all mean to the average suburban block and why is it important?

Leaf litter in your garden is basically replicating a forest floor and will eventually break down to form soil. You may not have natural forest on your property or even nearby, but your garden, big or small, does have its own ecosystem of layers and you can help it be the most environmentally sustainable patch in your surrounding space.

So, what is going on and in the forest floor?

Forests account for 25% of the world’s biomass, and the extensive root systems of trees are responsible for up to 75% of the forest biomass production. This organic matter is critical and essential for soil health and is a food source for many different species and organisms.

Below ground ecosystems are not just a food source, they are also essential habitat. 50% of animal biodiversity is found below the surface of the soil. This underground ecosystem includes fungi, bacteria and nematodes and many others. These ecosystems are more diverse than the aboveground, and these species are responsible for many ecosystems that plants, animals and humans rely on, including soil health, water purification and decomposition.

Recreating the forest floor one backyard at a time:

Every time you fill your green bin with leaves you’ve raked up, or branches you’ve pruned off, you are losing some of the nutrients your garden has accumulated. So, rather than putting garden waste in a compost bin, you can use it to recreate a forest floor within your garden. Don’t let garden waste leave your garden. It can be converted back into soil through ecological composting, and the nutrients retained to fuel your garden’s growth.

As the layer of leaf litter builds up, it will help prevent evaporation as well as providing nutrients for a wide range of fungi. These fungi will break down the leaves, provide food for animals and produce stunning displays when the fruiting bodies - mushrooms and toadstools appear.

To encourage decomposition and fungal growth, give the leaf litter on your garden beds a quick spray with the hose each week, and add some extra Sugar Cane Mulch if need be.

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