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Leaves on the flagstone by the pool -- We won't leave them exactly where they fall because the leaves would make their way into the pool.  However they will be recycled and used to replenish the soil in the yard where they fell.

We are fast approaching November--a month known here in our area for industrious leaf-raking activities.

A lot of folks in the DFW area bag their leaves and place them curbside for pick up.  Many assume their city has a leaf collection program that includes composting.  Some cities do, but not all cities in the DFW have leaf collection programs that compost leaves.  You need to find out how your city handles the leaves after they are picked up and then take responsibility for doing your part to keep them out of a landfill.

For example, in the City of Garland we do not currently have a leaf collection program that includes diverting them from our landfill.  Thus all the bags of leaves that citizens leave curbside every year go directly to our landfill—every single one of them—whether they are in paper bags or plastic bags, whether they are in the big heavy-duty vinyl bags or the see-through “environmentally friendly” plastic bags.

Garland’s C. M. Hinton, Jr. Regional Landfill opened in April 2002 and is designed for an approximate 50-year lifespan.   It takes in approximately 1,100 tons of garbage every day, which amounts to approximately 368,650 tons per year.  The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that somewhere between 20 to 50 percent of the material in landfills throughout the USA consists of yard waste such as leaves, which could be recycled.

Using these numbers and taking the lowest approximate estimate of 20% provided by the EPA, Garland residents are dumping approximately 18, 462 tons of recyclable yard waste into our landfill each year.  

Note:  According to Suzanne Willett, Senior Customer Service Representative at the City of Plano, “Leaves and organic material in the brown paper yard bags, as well as brush, are processed at the City’s grind site into mulch and compost.  The products are sold under the Texas Pure Products label - http://www.plano.gov/694/Texas-Pure-Products.

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Which method is better:  Haul leaves away to a landfill or haul leaves away to a center where they will be composted into soil and then resold?

Few would argue that it’s not better to haul the leaves to a center where they will be composted. 

However, the truth is that neither method is actually all that eco-friendly.  Mother Nature intended for the leaves to remain where they fall to return valuable nutrients to the soil—nutrients that have been used to grow the tree and its leaves.  When we remove the leaves from their place of origin we interrupt this natural cycle of life and we will eventually need to replace the nutrients to keep the vegetation alive.  Other not so healthy factors also come to play a part in this picture—soil erosion and polluted runoff with increased chemical usage to replace the nutrients that have been removed with the leaves from your property.  Isn’t it just a little crazy to bag your leaves to go to a compost facility where you then buy them back a few months later as soil and compost?

Stop and think about how much you are raking and hauling off—whether it is to your local landfill or your local composting center.

A three-inch depth of leaves in a 50 x 50 foot area = 47 cubic yards (CY).  Loose and dry this weighs about 200 pounds.  [If you want more detail on calculating exactly how many cubic yards of leaves you haul off your property every year visit The Number of Leaves 

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Consider the Benefits for Recycling Grass Clippings and Leaves at Your Home

1. If you mulch your leaves and spread them on your lawn, you are providing a free and eco-friendly source of slow-release fertilizer for your lawn.  Your grass clippings are particularly rich in nitrogen—after all, consider the fertilizer you put on your lawn—much of its residue is still in the grass blades you cut.  Start mowing without that grass catcher.

2. Mulching (cutting into small pieces with your lawn mower) and leaving your grass clippings and mulched leaves on your lawn can

  • Save as much as 25 percent in fertilizer costs.
  • Reduce harmful runoff
  • Save you time –no more raking and bagging.

            NOTE: 

Contrary to what many people believe, leaving clippings on your lawn won't cause thatch build-up.

Over-fertilizing that leads to overgrown grass is what leads to thatch buildup.

Inconsistent mowing practices can also cause thatch. Keep your grass cut at the recommended height, with a plan to mow when it grows one inch above that height. Doing this will create small enough clippings that can easily disappear and breakdown in your lawn.

Studies at Michigan State, Cornell, Rutgers and Purdue have concluded that mulching tree leaves is an excellent disposal method that does not harm healthy turf and may provide a number of benefits, including increased microbial activity, water infiltration and improved soil structure. Best of all it keeps the leaves out of our landfills.

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