raking autumn leaves

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

Leaf Your Leaves in Your Yard!

 Every fall there’s a certain amount of cringing going on during 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.

“It takes a Village” at the Ewing Community Gardens

It was a great day last Saturday!  With the help and energy of yet another contingent of TCNJ student volunteers under the direction of Professor Michael Nordquist and the Community Gardens Committee we accomplished what we have been trying to do all season – decimate a huge mulch pile and put its contents onto the paths of the Ewing Community Gardens on Whitehead Road Extension.  This was a fabulous accomplishment and will make a tremendous difference to the gardeners who use the site.   Gardeners have already commented on how much easier the site is to use this year since they didn’t have to do quite so much bushwhacking to get to their plots.  The efforts of the students and gardeners Saturday have sustained and greatly improved upon our previous efforts.  In addition, we were delighted to have the compost bins set up for the gardeners use.  Now they won’t have to cart out the weedy debris but can be more environmentally friendly and compost it on site.  The weeding and the planting efforts that they contributed were just the icing on the cake!

Ewing Township, the Green Team and most especially the community gardeners have been the recipients of a number of student volunteer community service days this year and are all deeply grateful for all of the hard work that the students put in.  We believe that in addition to implementing more environmentally friendly practices at the gardens, the cleanup days, so wonderfully supported by the students, are helping to create the community in our community gardens.

For more photos from the day, check our Photos page.

Save the Date!

Barbara J. Bromley to Speak at the May 15th Community Gardens Meeting

Please be sure to mark your calendars to attend the next monthly meeting of the Ewing Community Gardens on May 15th at the ESCC from 7 – 9 p.m. Mercer County Horticulturalist Barbara J. Bromley is our featured speaker! She will discuss soil and other related topics that will help gardeners to be successful at a community garden. She will, of course, answer any questions from the floor that come up.

For those of you who have heard Barbara speak, you know that she is a delightfully entertaining and informative lecturer. For those of you who have not, you are in for a real treat! She has been the Mercer County Horticulturalist for many years and she established and trained the Mercer County Master Gardeners. She has been a featured speaker throughout the state.

Date: May 15th
Time: 7 – 9 p.m
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center, ESCC, Community Room

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from an expert so be sure to plan to attend.

Trifecta of Green Team Sustainability Events – Saturday March 23rd

Saturday, March 23rd promises to be a busy day for environmental causes in Ewing.  The day starts out early with the Ewing Community Gardens Cleanup at Whitehead Road Extension.   At midday, the Ewing Green Team will co-host the Living Local Expo with Sustainable Lawrence, the Hopewell Valley Green Team and the Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability, a green fair at Lawrence High School Commons.  We will top it off in the evening with participation in Earth Hour where individuals and communities around the globe turn off their lights from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. as a symbolic gesture of support for planet.

Ewing Community Gardens

Time: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Whitehead Road Extension, Ewing

Community GardensTownship staff has been hard at work this week preparing the community gardens for the spring gardening season.  The expansion of the gardens has begun and the amount of land available for gardeners will be almost doubled.  [Don’t forget to sign up for a plot ASAP to ensure that you get one.]  Truckloads of wood chips have been delivered to the site for use on the site paths, courtesy of Mercer County and Britton Industries.  Township staff is also busy preparing to install the new water line and outlining the site fencing.

On Saturday the gardeners will be joined by a cohort of young volunteers from the College of New Jerey for the spring site clean up.  The cleanup will run from 8 – 4 and cleanup from last year will be undertaken along with setting out and mulching the paths for the coming season.  All gardeners are invited.  Be sure to wear sturdy and washable footwear.  [The geese have visited!]

Living Local Expo

Time: noon – 4 p.m.
Location: The Commons at Lawrence High School, 2525 Princeton Pike Lawrenceville

livinglocallogoThe 6th Annual Living Local Expo, organized by Sustainable Lawrence in partnership with the green teams from Lawrence, Ewing, Hopewell, and the Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability, will run from noon  until 4 p.m. at the Commons at Lawrence High School.   It will feature  hands-on workshops, displays from  40-plus local businesses and non-profits, and the “Ask your Neighbor” table where visitors can hear how homeowners and businesses completed successful energy-efficient projects. Speakers will discuss a variety of sustainability issues ranging from local farms, school gardening & projects, to the future of transportation and recycling in Mercer County, and more.  It promises to be an exceptional event.

Admission is free.

Earth Hour 2013

Time: 8:30 – 9:3o p.m.

EH_60+_LOGO_EPS_LARGEMarch 23rd is also the date that the world unites to take a stand against climate change.  Earth Hour is a global movement that endeavors to unite people around the world in making a commitment to save the planet.   It has been held annually at the end of March since 2007.   Its goal is to unite communities from across the world celebrating a commitment to the planet by switching off lights for one designated hour wherever you are in the world.  Turning of the lights is the symbolic gesture.  Organizers ask individuals, communities, schools, businesses and governments to couple that with pledges of positive actions toward a sustainable future.

What green initiatives can you undertake as part of your stand against climate change?

Ewing Community Gardens Meeting

Planning Session For Management of the 2013 Ewing Community Gardens

Spring will be here before you know it and it’s not too early to plan for the 2013 Ewing Community Gardens at Whitehead Road Extension.  At the top of the agenda is suggesting guidelines for management of the site to the Township for approval.    These rules will provide guidelines for proper gardening etiquette for the site and detail exactly what is expected from all gardeners.

Suggested rules from the American Community Gardening Association have been incorporated into a survey posted on our new Survey page.  All participants should first complete the survey .  This will enable us to tabulate suggestions and discover important issues from prior plot holders and propose any solutions needed.  Previous plot holders are welcome and their feedback would be greatly valued.

All are welcome.

Date: Wednesday: January 30, 2013
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center [ESCC]