Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn! The Annual Leaf Harvest

My fellow HMEGer, Peter Hoh and I adapted a piece from the MPCA to get the word out that your autumn leaves are a valuable resource. -- they contain nutrients that your lawn, compost pile, chicken run, or garden needs! You can always take the material to the yard waste compost site, but here are a few eco-smart options that will benefit you for 12 months until the next fall:

  • If you have a backyard compost bin, or plan to start one, save your dry leaves to use as a carbon source, or "browns,". "Browns" are essential to non-smelly, active compost and must be added to vegetable scraps (aka "greens") for compost success. You cannot avoid finding a "browns" source, so why not use what falls onto your yard?
  • Create free and convenient garden mulch from your leaves by collecting your autumn leaves in a hoop of wire or plastic fencing. They will breakdown partly over the winter and come next summer, you will have a valuable mulch to use in your garden beds. Leaf mulch (sometimes called leaf mold) works especially well in vegetable gardens. If these leaves are mowed first they will fit into a smaller hoop, but this step is not necessary.
  • Use a mower to break leaves into tiny pieces and leave them on your lawn. A leaf layer that is thin enough to still see some grass is fine for lawns.
  • If you have pets, or backyard chickens, dried leaves are a source of free and sustainable bedding. See this earlier post.
  • Whether you compost your own leaves or take them to the county compost site, it's important to make sure that you are not raking up dog waste along with the leaves.

HMEG wants to help you save autumn leaves for your compost bin and garden needs. For a short time, we are offering a length of plastic fencing that can be set-up into a hoop, at cost, along with zip-ties to hold it together. This means that you won't have to buy a large roll of plastic fencing. To get your leaf bin, contact Peter at (Enough fencing for a 3-foot diameter bin will cost $10).

You can also help keep our water and air clean by what you don't do with that pile of leaves:
  • Don't throw yard waste in the trash. Mixing yard and tree waste with your trash is illegal in Minnesota.
  • Don't rake leaves onto a city street or sidewalk. It washes too many leaves, and therefore nutrients, into the Mississippi River via the stormwater sewers.
  • And last, don't burn large piles of leaves. Burning of twigs and yard debris releases large amounts of air pollution in to the atmosphere.

More about the HMEG
More about Backyard composting
More about wood smoke pollution
More about Ramsey County compost sites in
More about leaf mold