Ways to make autumn leaves more eco-friendly
By Michael Leach
Cackle, crunch, crackle, crunch go the footfalls of autumn walks through dry leaves that smell pleasantly of faded summer days.
Savvy gardeners, who know that leaves are easily recycled into a free mulch and soil amendment, aren’t likely to bag their leaves and put them at the curb, much less rake them into the gutter to await collection.
However, those who shun nature’s gift and relegate leaves to the gutter are creating environmental issues.
Gutters filled with leaves “… impede the flow of rainwater to the nearest storm drain, creating puddles where mosquitoes can breed,” says the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District in Columbus in a recent newsletter. (Despite the autumn chill, I guess we shouldn’t underestimate the power of mosquitoes to reproduce.)
“When the leaves are blown by wind or carried by rainwater to the storm drain,” the report adds, “they clog at the catch basin and form an impenetrable mat on the grate. This causes street flooding and the extra expense of calling out municipal or township employees to clean it.
“When leaves travel through the storm water system to the nearest stream, they contribute to oxygen depletion as they decompose.”
The district suggests keeping leaf piles out of the street to await vacuuming. If your community offers curbside yard waste recycling, put leaves in cans marked “yard waste” or in paper leaf bags.
“Yard waste” is such a misnomer for this valuable resource. Despite having to deal with leaves from a dozen or so large shade trees, including several mature sugar maples, I don’t consider leaves waste.
Besides putting them to work in the landscape, this year I’m putting some into plastic trash bags to insulate carrots and turnips. I’m hoping to keep the soil cold but not frozen, making harvest in dead of winter a possibility. Stay tuned for further developments on this front.
BTW, what’s your favorite uses for leaves?