Please leaf a smaller footprint this year.
Do you believe it! We are just about two months away from November—the beginning of leaf season in our area and the beginning of Loving Garland Green’s November Leaf Awareness Campaign. This will be our second year to conduct that community service program.
Pound for pound, the leaves of most trees contain twice as many minerals as manure and most chemical fertilizers. For example, the mineral content of a sugar maple leaf is over five percent, while even common pine needles have 2.5 percent of their weight in calcium, magnesium, nitrogen and phosphorus, plus other trace elements. Most chemical fertilizers only contain Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus (NPK). Plants need other minerals as well – calcium and sulfur in particular to name two of them.
Yet each year thousands of leaves all over the USA are bagged and left curbside to be picked up and hauled off to landfills. When organic matter is hauled to a landfill, it is removed from available use as a recycled natural resource—often for hundreds of years. By sending leaves to the landfill, Americans waste millions of dollars every year—not to mention the harm we do to our environment by taking this valuable natural resource out of circulation.
The Best Solution: Mulch the leaves and leave them on your lawn.
Stop putting chemical fertilizers on your yard and instead use finely mulched leaves. When leaves are mulched where they fall (and any ordinary lawnmower fitted with a mulching blade will do the job) they are put to immediate use.
When the leaves are dry and about three inches deep over your lawn, mow over them with a mulching blade. You can purchase a mulching blade at any garden store. They are simple to install. Usually it simply means turning your lawnmower on it side and using a screwdriver to remove one screw in the center of the blade and replacing it with a mulching blade. Mulching your leaves where they fall eliminates the labor-intensive work of raking or blowing leaves into a pile and bagging them. The little pieces of leaves will drop down in between the blades of grass and serve as mulch to block spaces where weeds might grow. As they quickly decay because of their small size, they will nourish your lawn.
Some urban yards have too many trees to use all the leaves. If this is the case with your lawn, then use the leaf catcher on your lawn mower to collect and bag the rest for your flowerbeds or to donate to your local community garden or perhaps to a neighbor who has no trees.
Take the grass catcher off your mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. Reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. You're done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf bits settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up.
Soil is an Endangered Resource
If you need another reason for leaving your leaves in your yard, remember that in addition to costing you money when you throw them away, leaves are the major organic contribution to the process of making new soil. Every year we lose a little bit of soil from our yards: Some of it is carried away on the bottoms of our shoes but much of it is washed away with rains and watering and carried off via our storm sewers.
Those leaves represent future soil and nutrition for plants and grass in your yard. Soil is made by nature through the process of decomposition of organic matter such as leaves. When you have leaves removed from your property, you will eventually need to replace the soil and other nutrients that would have been provided free for you by the leaves.
The Monarch is not the only natural resource that needs saving. “The world's soils are rapidly deteriorating due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil sealing and other threats, but this trend can be reversed provided countries take the lead in promoting sustainable management practices and the use of appropriate technologies . . . “ From a United Nations Report issued in December of 2015
Proper stewardship of the land is no longer the sole responsibility of those living the agrarian life. Proper land management is also the responsibility of urban dwellers and will increasingly become more important as we move toward 2050 when it is estimated that 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.
Residents of Austin, Texas have a company called “Compost Pedallers. This company has employees who pedal around Austin on their bicycles picking up compost in five gallon buckets their company supplies to those who want to participate. These buckets are then sold to a nearby organic farm. – Photo from Compost Pedallers’ website.
Speaking of Innovative Ways to Deal with Organic Matter: Compost Pickup Services are popping up all over the USA.
There are some people out there who understand the value of organic matter. A couple of days ago, a friend and member of Loving Garland Green, Cheryl Andres sent me a link to an article written about the Compost Pedallers, an innovative company in Austin, Texas.
Compost Pedallers looks like a successful enterprise. They also provide jobs for local cyclists and other positions in their company—Just one more way that living green boosts local economies.
Garland Almost Had a Loving Garland Green Version of Compost Pedallers Four Years Ago
The article made me nostalgic. Three years ago when the Garland Community Garden was new and we needed to build soil for garden I asked several grocers in the area if they would allow Loving Garland Green to pick up their spoiled produce once a week. My plan was that we would take it to the garden and mix it in with leaves. [If you cover fresh organic matter with a foot of dry brown matter, it will not attract animals as the dry matter masks the odor. If any compost pile stinks, it’s only because it’s not being properly managed.]
I approached three different grocers and they all, except for Krogers (who told me it was against corporate policy) told me the same story: “The city of Garland has an ordinance against it.” I checked with the Mayor and city officials from the Health Department and they all told me the same story: There is no such ordinance. The Mayor even wrote me a letter of introduction and mentioned in it the absence of such a code. The grocers must have taken a lesson from Krogers because their next excuse was that it was against corporate policy.
I just let it drop at that point. Loving Garland Green was barely begun and there was lots of work to do. Obtaining organic waste from grocers which I planned to eventually expand to citizens got pushed to the background. Although I probably should have persisted because I will say that I had great support from City officials—both elected and those employed in the various Garland City Departments.
The Garland Environmental Waste Department even delivered two large plastic containers for us to store the unused organic waste in.
Perhaps this is an idea whose time has finally arrived? Really, we should only use our garbage disposals for animal products and processed foods. Besides, throwing away organic waste, just like throwing away your leaves, is nothing short of throwing away money.
WalMart Knows the Value of Organic Waste
I do know that WalMart recognizes the value because they keep their spoiled produce in a locked metal bin in the back of their store. I was there early one morning (about 5:30 AM) when a truck pulled alongside the bin and unloaded it. I asked the driver where the load was going and he said it was going to an organic farm about 25 miles away. I don’t know if WalMart was paying him or if he was paying WalMart. Most likely he is the one forking over the dough to WalMart—because they really need it, don’t they?