Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's our obsession with leaves?

Americans have this obsession with leaves, and it's not a good one.  Sure they're fine when they're sitting pretty up in the trees, but as soon as that first Autumn wind blows a few to the ground it's game on! I'm sure most states are the same, with each town having its own rules (or laws) regarding leaf pick-up depending on your area; rural, urban, suburban... whether bagged or simply blown to the curb though it's a tiresome seemingly losing battle.

The bigger question though is not which of the latest and greatest overpriced pieces of equipment should be used (leaf blower, leaf vacuum, leaf bagger, leaf shredder, etc.), but rather why do most people spend so much time trying to rid their yard of this excellent and FREE natural compost resource?

Decomposing leaves feed the soil.  That is the trillions of micro-organisms that live in healthy soil.  And yet Americans make it their fall mission, waging war on nature's mulch/fertilizer, and not resting until every last leaf has been exiled from their lawn.  As a society we'd rather spend hundreds of dollars a year per household putting chemicals down, in the form of weed killer, fertilizer, GMO seeds, or whatever "lawn food" the "experts" claim you need in order to get that perfect lawn.

This is a shameful ridiculous waste of time and resources!  In my neighborhood the rule is you blow them to the curb and the town will come pick them up.  You won't see any leaves at my curb though, and it's not because my part of the town doesn't have curbs... No, I see leaves as the valuable and precious natural resource that they are.  And for this reason I rake up and utilize the bulk of what my yard produces as well as my neighbor's yard (to the right and left of me).  Sure, they think I'm the nice helpful guy next door.  And a bit crazy I'm sure.  But the truth is pains me to see such wastefulness.

So what do I do with all these leaves you wonder (or not)?

I use them in the chicken's winter fenced in area as bedding.  Since I give the pasture part of my lawn a rest from the chickens over the winter, and without daily rotation, this smaller fenced in area becomes dirt quite quickly.  And bare uncovered dirt is, in any season, defenseless against the harshness of nature (sun, wind, and rain), which ultimately leads to infertile soil.  So in an effort to maintain healthy soil and encourage a good microorganism population, I add a nice thick layer of leaves and fall debris for compost and cover.  This helps maintain moisture and temperature while preventing the harsh effects of  winter; a mud pit when snowing/raining and a frozen desert during the dry spells.  This benefits the chickens by helping to maintain a vital food source (worms and insects), while benefiting the soil by providing food (decomposing organic matter and chicken poop) and cover.

So the next time you start to get that fall itch telling you to wage war on the fallen leaves, think twice about your actions.  You would be doing your lawn a favor by utilizing the leaves as fertilizer as well as mulch for flower and shrub beds.  You would also be doing your wallet a favor by saving money that would otherwise be spent on "lawn care".

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