Leaves and pine needles are easy to collect, abundant, and free. What they give back to the garden and landscape is necessary and enriching. Many municipalities gather leaves in fall and compost them down to return to residents in the community as soil building amendment. If you are lucky enough to live in a forward thinking town, take advantage. If not, it is simple enough to store and make your own.
All it takes is a little brushing away the upper, uncomposted leaves on the forest floor to get you hooked. The images above show a moist, springy, loose textured black soil in two local forests teeming with earthworms, and small insects. They scurried away to the cover of safety before I could get the camera focused. Earthworms burrowed out of sight in mere seconds. The top image has one earthworm that was still slightly visible, but there had to be over 30 in this small area. All were basking in the warmth of the leaves on top of the moist soil. The black Earth is the best around, just ask all the insects and microorganisms who make their homes there.