“Leaf Cycling” Is the Eco-Friendly Way to Maintain Your Yard

Leaf Your Leaves in Your Yard!

raking autumn leavesI cringe each autumn on my trips around town when I see  bags or piles of leaves out at the curb – all of that wonderful organic material that could be used to recharge your yards just tossed away!  So this is a prime opportunity to discuss the best way to handle your leaf cleanup at the end of the gardening season. I can’t urge you strongly enough not to give your leaves away!  It is a huge waste of natural materials that could benefit your yard! There are a number of really simple environmentally friendly ways to handle your leaf drop that don’t starve your yard and also decrease your impact on municipal services to save $$$.

So what to do with those leaves?

The first method is the lazy man’s way (my favorite) and involves very little raking and effort on your part. Simply run your lawn mower over the leaves where they lie and chop them up into small pieces.  (Yes, I know that using gas mowers are considered an unsustainable gardening practice, but consider the greater good.)  The chopped leaves can stay on your lawn and decompose there. This is an excellent way to help build up the soil. This works best with a mulching mower which is meant to chop materials (you do grass cycle, don’t you?) into fairly small pieces. Do this as needed until the end of the season and the leaves will break down over the winter providing your soil with valuable nutrients. You won’t have to rake a single leaf, and your lawn will thank you for it with improved performance next year.  Check out the video below to see how easy it is.

Another method not quite so effortless is taking those chopped up leaves and mulching your garden beds with them. This will protect your plants from the vagaries of the winter weather and also provide your beds with valuable nutrients when the leaves break down.

If you run out of time (or energy) you can forgo the chopping with the mower and leave the leaves in the beds where they fall and pile on more.  This will accomplish two necessary tasks.  (1) Removing your leaves from any hard surfaces on your property where they can become slick and messy. And (2) removing those leaves from your lawn where they can smother the turf grass.  This also will provide for a neater end of the year appearance.  Research does show that most garden plants in the colder hardiness zones appreciate a nice cover of leaves to protect them, however there are a few that do not so you need to be aware of your specific plant needs.  If you mulch with unchopped leaves, you are also faced with the issue of cleanup in the spring because most leaves will not have decomposed by that time.  If you trees have fine leaves you can probably leave them be in the spring and the appearance will not suffer unduly.  However, many of us are blessed with fine old trees like oaks, maples and sycamores, etc. that have large leaves and for a groomed appearance in your beds in spring you are going to have to remove them.  [I find myself hard at work every spring removing leaves, chopping, and then returning them back into the beds as mulch.  I never said that gardening doesn't have its chores.]

You can also add your leaves to your compost pile. No matter how small your yard there is always room for a small one tucked away in some out of the way place. The leaves will decompose more quickly if you chop them with your lawn mower as recommended above. Then gather them up (it’s amazing how a large pile of leaves reduces in size) and add them to the pile. If your pile is composed only of chopped leaves, you can make leaf mold for use at a later time. If you have green debris from your garden you can mix the two in layers and let it sit over the winter. Turn the pile when the weather permits and you will eventually have the Black Gold of the garden world – compost.

I tend to use a combination of all these methods.  When it is not too late (or cold) I happily run my lawn mower over piles of leaves that have fallen on the lawn and that I have removed from the beds.  Since raking afterwards is not 100% perfect, some is left on the lawn after I have either blown or raked the chopped product into the beds or put in the compost pile.  However, as the season winds down and I find myself beset with end of the year chores, one of the final acts of the season is that last pass with the lawnmower where I leave the leaves in place.  The yard is then as neat as I can get it before I retreat from the garden and await the first snow.

So I encourage you to avail yourselves of the multifold benefits of leaf hoarding.  Your yard will thank you for it.

by Joanne Mullowney, dedicated leaf hoarder.

Posted in composting, gardening, lawn care, leaf-cycling, mowing, recycling, Uncategorized, Waste/Recycling, Winterizing your garden, yard waste | Leave a comment

Upcoming Events You Shouldn’t Miss!

Special Events Planned for Next Week

The last week of October is a busy week.  Check out these local events to help you on your path to a more sustainable life.  From plastic pollution to organic waste practices in our county, and bike advocacy in town, there is something for everyone.

BAG IT – Is Your Life Too Plastic?

Film and Discussion  BagIT

Date: Monday, October 27, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The College of New Jersey Library Auditorium (Basement)
Parking:  See Parking Map.
Cost: Only 2 hours or so of your time

Join the Ewing Green Team for an award winning film and discussion about plastic pollution from single use plastic bags and our disposable lifestyles.  Moderated by Noemi de la Puente, founder and organizer of the grass roots organization, njthinkoutsidethebag.

This screening is part of an ongoing effort to educate Mercer County residents about how they can be part of the solution before they vote on November 4^th on a nonbinding referendum to support a 5¢ fee on single use plastic bags.

An Environmental Insights offering, a series of films, discussions and speakers brought to you by the  Ewing Green Team, designed to engage Ewing residents in a public conversation about critical environmental issues and to spark new ideas concerning sustainability.


If It Grows, It Goes…

All you need to know about organic waste recycling

Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014  foodwaste-istock
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Location:  Dempster Fire Academy Auditorium, 350 Lawrence Station Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Cost: Free and open to the public
Pre-registration requested

Organic waste is a part of our everyday lives.  We can’t help but encounter it every time we eat, tend to our yards, or many other daily chores.

That’s why we’re breaking it down for you.  County Executive Brian Hughes will offer opening remarks and a panel of experts will explain what organic waste is, where it goes and what happens in the recycling process. Panelists will present local success stories and how you can bring this program to your town.

The Curbside Organics Program is already in place in Princeton and is currently under contract in Lawrence and Hopewell. Other municipalities in Mercer are looking to join in the near future.

Organic waste recycling is an easy way to make a HUGE impact through small actions.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about it, while networking with other like-minded individuals from throughout the region.

Hosted by Sustainable Jersey, sustainability organizations from Princeton, Lawrence, Hopewell, Ewing, West Windsor and The Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability.

For more info or to register, click here    |    Download the flier   | Driving directions

*Light refreshments will be served.  Doors open at 6:30 pm.*


Bike Ewing!

Join Our New Bike Advocacy Group

Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014  bikeewing
Time: 7 pm
Location: The College of New Jersey, Social Sciences Building Room 241
Parking:  See Parking Map.

The Ewing Green Team announces the launch of a NEW Ewing Bike Advocacy Group and invites you to join with us to promote a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.  The 2nd meeting will be held on Thursday, October 30th.

Monthly meetings, goal setting, and other startup activities are in the planning stages.

For more information call Mark at 609- 802- 6798.

Posted in Bike Advocacy, Biking, composting, Environmental Insights, Environmental Series, Food, food waste, Meetings, Plastic, Plastic Pollution, pollution, Waste/Recycling | Leave a comment

Recycling Events in Ewing on Saturday, Sept 27th

Two unrelated recycling events will be occurring in Ewing this coming Saturday, September 27th, mobile document shredding and a drug disposal day.  Please be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to dispose of your confidential materials or unwanted prescriptions safely.  Read on for more information.

Document Shredding

SONY DSCSaturday will be Ewing’s final Shred Day of 2014.  It will run from 9am – 1pm and will be held at the Municipal Building at 2 Jake Garzio Drive.   The Township will provide document shredding on site for Township residents only, no businesses. Proof of residency is required. This is a free shredding event for confidential materials only; other recyclables will not be not accepted.   The Ewing Green Team will be on hand to offer assistance.

Shred Day Information

Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: in front of the Ewing Municipal Building, 2 Jake Garzio Drive

National Take Back Day

drugsThe Ewing Police Department will be participating in the DEA’s biannual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day  from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.    This is a great opportunity for those who missed the previous events, or who have subsequently accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs, to safely dispose of them.  Just go to the Ewing Police Department at 2 Jake Garzio Drive.  Enter the main door and make a left to go down the hallway to the Police Department.  The Ewing Police will have an officer available between 10 and 2 to take the items. All medications are accepted, prescription and over-the-counter, as well as liquids.

All medications are accepted, prescription and over-the-counter, as well as liquids.  Hypodermic needles are not accepted.  The disposal is handled completely securely; all accepted medications with any labels that you leave on the containers are placed in a large cardboard box, lined with plastic.  At the end of the day the contents are taken to the prosecutor’s office.  The DEA will pick up and incinerate.

Guidelines for Drug Disposal

If you are unable to participate on the day the FDA’s guidelines for proper drug disposal follow:

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • If no instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter — to make the medication less appealing and unrecognizable — then put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • You should also remove any identifying information on the label to protect your identity and privacy.

Despite the safety reasons for flushing drugs, some people are questioning the practice because of concerns about trace levels of drug residues found in surface water, such as rivers and lakes, and in some community drinking water supplies. However, the main way drug residues enter water systems is by people taking medications and then naturally passing them through their bodies.  That said, the FDA does not want to add drug residues into water systems unnecessarily. The agency reviewed its drug labels to identify products with disposal directions recommending flushing or disposal down the sink. This continuously revised listing can be found at FDA’s Web page on Disposal of Unused Medicines.

National Take Back Day Information

Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Ewing Police Department, 2 Jake Garzio Drive

Posted in Drugs, National Take Back Day, Prescriptions, shred event, Waste/Recycling | Leave a comment