There is a seasonal down side to living in a designated Tree City, USA: Dealing with the vast amount of leaves that fall on our yards this time of year. Even the most avid backyard composter will often have too many leaves for the pile to accommodate.
Here are some tips to deal with these beautiful, abundant leaves:
- Composting remains the most environmentally sound method of handling yard waste. Leaves provide the carbon component necessary to balance the nitrogen-rich compost piles laden with summer's garden waste and grass clippings. When leaves and grass are mixed with a little water and air, bacteria kick into action and convert wastes into a rich soil amendment.
Leaves and grass composted at home will continue to break down through the winter months. Burying coffee grounds and vegetable and fruit peelings into the middle of your pile, occasionally adding water and turning your compost a few times this winter will ensure that you'll be the recipient of dark, rich humus for your summer garden beds.
- Grasscycle! Yes, moderate amounts of leaves can be mowed and left on your winter lawn -- just as you did your grass during the warmer months. Leaves that have been mowed are torn into smaller bits, distributed evenly and, as a result, are able to break down faster on the lawn surface.
- Bag for curbside collection. More often than not, during these last few weeks of fall we simply have too many leaves to process in the previous ways. Consider this time- and work-saving tip: Place your bagging attachment on your mower. Mow your leaf-covered yard and empty the attachment into a bag or container.
By mowing the leaves, their volume has been reduced and fewer bags need to be placed out for Monday's leaf and grass collection. Recently, the Lawrence Recycling Office was apprised of an individual who developed a similar bagging attachment for his hand-held blower/vacuum unit.
Collection of leaves and grass clippings by the city's Solid Waste Division on Mondays will continue until Mother Nature has finished her job for the seasonal leaf fall. All leaves must be placed in some type of container, whether they are reusable polycarts or cans, or plastic or compostable fiber bags.
Once collected, the leaves are transported to the city's compost facility where they are mixed into rows of similar organic materials for the composting process to occur. It takes six to nine months for the compost to "finish," and it is applied as soil amendment in city projects and used as topsoil amendment at the closed landfill north of Riverfront Park.
When dealing with an abundance of leaves during this time of year, there are a few things that we should not do. DO NOT rake leaves into storm sewers, streets or streams. Accumulated leaves raked into our storm sewers will impede the flow of water, causing costly stoppages and backups.
A city ordinance (see City Code Section 1979, Section 1403) prohibits the raking of leaves into our streets. While city street sweepers will accommodate for materials that have fallen on our streets, large piles of leaves, especially when wet, tend to gum up the machinery's sweeping mechanism.
Raking large amounts of leaves into streams or storm sewers can increase algae growth and reduce the oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life. Grass clippings from fertilized lawns are particularly bad for water bodies, stimulating even more algae growth and oxygen depletion.
So while the leaf fall may be intense at this time, there are ways to manage it. If you have questions about composting or grasscycling, call the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Office at 832-3030.
-- Recycling Reflections is made possible by the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Division.