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Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — Don’t Leave Leaves on the Curb

11/5/2012 11:25:29 AM

Tags: autumn, nutrient pollution, leaves, environment, Earth Gauge


When autumn rolls around, it provides a relief from the summer heat with cooler temperatures and beautiful colors from changing leaves. Those colorful leaves eventually fall to the ground and are placed into piles on roadsides, curbs and sidewalks. While these piles may be fun to jump and play in, they have a downside. Leaves left on the street turn roads into dry creek beds. When rain falls on the leaves, they break down and release polluting nutrients — like nitrogen and phosphorus — into storm drains and local waterways.
Fall leaves
Viewer Tip: Create leaf piles in your garden instead of the street. Mowing the lawn and raking can be tasking chores. If you have to do both, why not combine the two and help your garden out at the same time? Leaves and grass clippings can provide natural nutrients to plants and soils. Instead of raking your leaves first then mowing, try mowing the grass and leaves on the lawn together, then raking up the pile and spreading it around on a garden bed on top of the soil. Natural nutrients will filter down into the soil and the plants will feed off of them. You can also add leaves, grass and other yard waste to a compost bin.

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(Sources:  Princeton Township, “Princeton’s Guide to Leaf Management”; Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension, “Don’t Bag It – Leaf Management Plan.”) 

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David Kiley
11/6/2012 4:32:49 PM
Some of us can also expand the recycling of leaves by collecting them from others. We run a small farm/greenhouse business. During the fall we collect roughly 300 of the 30-gallon compostable paper leaf bag from a local mobile home park. My total labor for doing this is about 6 hours. From my own property I mow up a leave/grass combo of roughly 60 bags worth and a friend of mine provides me with another 70 bags from her property. The bags from her property are emptied and given back to her to be reused. The 130 bags worth of leaves from my friend’s property and mine are combined with a small amount of finished compost and turned to produce a new batch of compost for the following spring. The 300 bags from the mobile home park are left in the bags and covered with a trap to sit for the winter. They will be used throughout the following summer and combined with that summer’s grass clippings to create a fall batch of compost. Total we produce approx. 75 cubic yards of finished compost, which is used in our gardens, as a potting soil additive for the greenhouse business or sold, to customers in either 50 pounds bags or sold in bulk loaded into their pickup trucks or trailers with the same small frontend loader we use to turn the compost.

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