by Maynard van der Galien
Maynard is a Renfrew County farmer and a columnist for the Cobden-Beachburg area Whitewater News.
With all the talk of recycling, I can’t understand why homeowners don’t want to go to the bother of recycling their tree leaves and make wonderful rich organic soil.
Every autumn (and spring) I grin and shake my head when I see homeowners with bags of leaves at the curb that are sent to a landfill site. In Canada, organics such as leaves, grass clippings and plant waste make up 30 to 40 per cent of residential waste.
According to studies, nearly 35 per cent of the material dumped in landfill sites is biodegradable waste. Home composting can easily divert organic waste into useful fertilizer for gardens.
I must point out that some towns and cities have waste diversion. Organic waste does not go to landfill sites.
Recently, a friend and I were walking down our cottage road and we stopped to chat with new neighbours who were outside walking their large dogs. The two sisters had bought the cottage a few years ago and have been busy sprucing it up. Knowing that I am a farmer, they had a few questions for me about soil and what is the best commercial product to buy. One of the sisters said it was difficult making a little vegetable garden because of large trees on the property. The soil, she said, was not meant for a garden and asked what she could do to improve the quality.
My first question was: What do you do with all the leaves that fall off your trees? “We rake and rake, bag them all and pay a guy with a truck to take them to the dump,” was the reply.
My answer shocked them. “Oh, no. Why do that? Why not compost the leaves and make black gold.” I explained that most trees are deep-rooted, they absorb minerals from deep in the soil and a good portion of these minerals go into the leaves. The leaves of one large shade tree can be worth as much as $50 of plant food and humus.
Their answers also surprised me. They have no place to compost even though they have a large wooded lot. Paying someone to take their leaves to a landfill site was the best and easiest solution to the leaf problem.
You don’t need compost bins or a cement pad to make a compost pile. Make a compost pile in a corner of your property where it can get sunlight. It’s important to keep your pile together to allow it to heat up and decompose. And while the pile is “nicely cooking” you can add some of your normal compost pile trimmings to it. Coffee grounds, which are high in nitrogen, fruit peels and scraps and grass clippings make your finished compost even better.
Shred fallen leaves into a fine chopped mix with a lawn mower. The finer you shred the leaves, the better. It greatly reduces the bulk. Whole leaves won’t compost quickly if left alone on the ground – and especially in piles where they can bind together and become a soggy matted mess
I had to frown when one of the sisters asked if they could put their dog poo in the compost pile if they decided to make one.
I stated emphatically No, No, No, you can put in dry cow dung, sheep, poultry, horse droppings in a compost pile but do NOT add meats or dog and cat poo.
Imagine, thinking a compost pile might be an ideal place to hide doggy poo. Yuck!
EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind Almonte-area readers that Al Potvin has for years been accepting accepting drop-offs of leaves at his Carss Street property, which he then composts and sells to support local charities.