‘Plants will perish!’ – Alan Titchmarsh warns against prolonging removing autumn leaves

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Alan Titchmarsh will appear in Love Your Garden on ITV tonight. This week, the gardening expert and his team will take on the task of creating a green space which combines elements of a woodland glade and a forest school.

During the autumn, fallen leaves can become a nuisance, but Alan Titchmarsh has highlighted the importance of gathering them up to prevent parts of the lawn and plants from becoming damaged.

 “It’s all very well being poetic about autumn and wittering on about season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but from a gardener’s point of view, it’s hard labour when the leaves come down and you have to get them up,” said Alan Titchmarsh during a video clip on GardernersWorld.com.

Clearing up leaves may be time-consuming, but according to Alan, it is an essential gardening job during the autumn. 

“If you leave them lying around, they’re just going to kill the grass out and encourage worms to come to the surface,” he explained.

Plants in garden beds and borders are especially vulnerable.

If leaves are left sitting in the centre of crowns on border perennials, Alan warned they could “kill them”.

He explained that if an abundance of leaves are left covering the plants, by the spring time gardeners often discover they have died. 

To gather up leaves, Alan advised using a plastic rake as opposed to a wire toothed rake.

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“They’re a bit more selective and gentler on the plants underneath,” he said.

“You can comb the worst of the leaves out,” added Alan.

A rake is a useful tool for creating piles of leaves, before they are gathered up.

Alan pointed out that while it is best to gather up as many leaves as possible, leaving a few on the ground will not cause too much damage.

He explained that those left in the garden would gradually rot down and enrich the soil.

“That is the great joy of this welter that you find on the lawn,” he said. “By raking them off, not only are you revealing the grass and making it look nicer and preventing quite so much worm activity, but you’re also giving yourself the chance to harvest really good soil enrichment.”

Once the leaves have rotted down, which can take place over the course of year, Alan said they are ideal for enriching the soil and provide a “soil conditioner” or leaf mould.

Leaf mould is created from leaves which have decayed and provide a good source of nutrients for soil.

As leaves become damp, they begin to rot and “break down rapidly” explained Alan.

He suggested gathering up the leave “little and often” to prevent too much damage to the surrounding greenery.

Alan advised against waiting until the majority of leaves had fallen, adding that delaying the task is “not good enough.”

He said: “By the time you’ve waited, the grass underneath and the plants underneath will have perished.”

Love Your Garden airs tonight on ITV at 8pm.

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