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Location: Cooks Gap (Gulgong)(Mudgee)


Post by greg » Fri Jan 15, 2010 5:21 pm

Gidday All
A while ago i was reading on this forum somewhere that where there is moss there is less leaf litter, so I checked my place and found that appeared to be right.
So I wrote to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Mt Tomah and this is the reply.
I hope this id helpful somewhere


Hi Greg

Thanks for your enquiry. I don’t have a definitive answer without seeing your actual site but I can offer some thoughts about what happens to the gum leaves.

Leaves are “broken down” by tiny organisms such as small insects, worms, bacteria – all manner of visible and invisible (to the naked eye) creatures. These tiny organisms all need water or at least some moisture. The more moist it is the more of them there are and the faster they get to work chewing through the leaves. Moss is also very dependent on moisture. It is also a food source for small organisms so where the moss grows there is usually more moisture and more of these organisms that chomp up the leaves. But this is not the only answer. Moss needs sun as well and would not grow where lots of leaves fall so that could explain why there are no leaves (it is an area where leaves don’t fall or gather and so moss can grow). All this explains why adding cow or sheep manure is so good for improving soil. It improves the “working conditions” for all the little organisms that break down organic matter and make soil. So in summary Greg, to make soil you need water (or at least moisture) so if you can’t add water cover the soil with organic matter (leaves, grass clippings, compost, manure etc all chopped up as finely as possible to speed up the process) and this keeps the ground surface moist and blocks out the light so that the organisms can get to work chewing up the leaves (they only work in the dark).

So the key factors are – MOISTURE, NO LIGHT, WARM but NOT HOT. Lots of ORGANIC MATTER.

Over a large area however, this can be difficult to achieve. You can experiment by collecting a wheelbarrow load of leaves and tipping in a pile. Add a couple of shovels of manure and water and leave for a month or two. Then lift off the top and have a look at what is happening to the leaves that were at the bottom of the heap. They should have started to turn to soil and you should see a lot of creatures running around when the light is let in. Try it. And this is why farmers try to plough stubble back into the ground after harvest and why it is best to leave lawn clippings behind rather than use a catcher. It all breaks down to make soil.

Good luck with all Greg and I hope this has been helpful.



Ross Ingram

Horticultural Development Officer

Botanic Gardens Trust

Mount Tomah Botanic Garden

Bells Line of Road

Via Bilpin NSW 2758 Australia

Telephone: 61 2 4567 3021

Facsimile: 02 4567 2037



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