Letter to the Editor
To the editor:
It is gratifying to see the Baldwin City Council grappling with the question of fall leaf cleanup. The tradition of burning is well established in this town. One of the charming signs of the season is the scent of leaves burning in the fall. Notwithstanding my own affection for these seasonal harbingers, I find the leaves valuable for a completely different reason.
Leaves from trees are the A No. 1, best possible ingredient in compost. Any long-time gardeners in Baldwin are probably already aware that "leaf-mold" as it is described, is high in cellulose. This is also referred to as the "brown" material needed to balance inputs from kitchens or lawn clippings. They are said to "cool down" the pile and harbor mycorhizae and bacteria that can break down the richer, nitrogenous wastes from food or the lawn.
I am rather well-known in my immediate neighborhood as very greedy for available supplies of leaves. Burning is not necessary here as I gladly collect the neatly bagged leaves from any willing neighbor and place them in my beds and compost. It is worth noting that leaves "left" in areas with evergreen ground cover, such as ivy or euonymus remain in place, anchored by the all-season plants. These leaves are not unsightly, as they are concealed by the evergreen leaves of the plant matrix. They break down into the very richest soil, as anyone who has dug in such beds will attest.
Coupled with the council efforts with recycling, the dispute about leaf burning is very timely. Composting the leaves is a way of returning their carbon content to the soil (minus the CO2 from the breakdown process). There are no waste products and no outside energy inputs. In fact the compost can supplant fertilizers that do require petroleum in their manufacture. I encourage all Baldwin homeowners to compost your leaves. If the city is interested I would also be interested in helping establish a citywide program to compost yard waste with a curbside pickup.
Each year, airborne carbon falls slightly, as the trees in the larger land masses of the northern hemisphere take it up. One small way to fight global warming is to direct the carbon in leaf fall into the soil. There, it can be immobilized for centuries. If the leaves are burned, well. . .all that goes up in smoke.