Autumnal Opportunities

I love this time of the year. While growing up in North Texas fall always signaled the blessed relief from the oppressive summer heat and extended romps through the woods or fishing in the ponds that were finally starting to fill up again. Here in New England fall is glorious too and of course the trees put on a show too. The smell of fallen leaves wafted into my olfactory awareness for the first time this year a couple of weeks ago early one morning after a rain shower the previous night. I love that smell and the sounds the crisp brown leaves make when walking on them in the woods.

This natural cycle of deciduous trees losing there leaves gives us the perfect opportunity to learn from observing nature. In a woodland ecosystem of deciduous trees one can find some of the most luxurious, rich black soil to be found anywhere that is created as a result of the decomposition of the leaves, fallen trunks or branches, and decaying rootlets that die off naturally (as above so below). In a well balanced system the decomposition is handled by insects, worms, microorganisms, and fungi to name a few of the major players. To paraphrase David Attenborough, the renowned naturalist and documentary film maker, we owe so much to the life being lived in the undergrowth.

If we take that model of natural recycling into our home yards and gardens then we can create soil without using chemical inputs that ultimately harm the ecosystems around us. One approach is to spread the leaves out somewhat evenly on the ground and wet them down thoroughly to prevent them blowing away. Like in the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. All of those leaves will attract earthworms to the buffet who will then take care of aerating and fertilizing your the lawn for free. No Chem-Lawn service needed! Next spring the lawn area of your yard will look great and you’ll have a great start on that vegetable garden!

Alternately, the leaves can be piled up in a corner somewhere (preferably close to your garden for easy access later) and then covered up until spring. Left to their own devices the pile will break down into rich humus of its own accord with no further action from you. Easy peasy.

Fungi play a vital role in woodland ecosystems. Here the fungal fruits have emerged from the log after sufficient rainfall. The mycelium courses through the log breaking it down slowly.


Leaf and soil

This leaf has lost its nitrogen content and is already starting to break down. Notice the varying sizes of the soil particles next to the leaf.


wood debris

This is all that is left after the fungus has broken down most of this old log. Eventually all of this too will be black rich humus.


The type of rich soil that is created when natural processes are fostered and allowed to continue. I picked this handful up on my walk in the woods last week.



Autumnal envoys.



Just doin’ my job folks…

Life in the Undergrowth (2005)

I highly recommend this series to give people are real appreciation for the marvelous diversity of life to be found at our feet.



One thought on “Autumnal Opportunities

  1. Pingback: Autumnal Opportunities | Creation Care, Neighbor Care, Future Care- The world through a permaculture lens

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