When I was a kid, Sunday’s in the fall always had game time bearing down on me as my father operated under the directive that any leaf we left behind was one I’d have to eat. Sarcasm aside, I did look pretty good but if opening kickoff was ever missed, did he really want to risk the call I’d be forced to make to the child protective services of the time. How about just running the lawnmower over the leaves and let them disintegrate by spring.
This the seventies, talk like that would have put a rake in my hand at halftime, but according to a Bedford initiative called, Leave Leaves Alone, it would seem I was something of a visionary.
In Bedford, residents pile their leaves along the street and town workers accumulate about 2,500 hours of work through five weeks to haul it all away. No need to put anyone out of work, says founder Fiona Mitchell, “They could be fixing roads, they could be clearing drains, they could be doing plenty of other things that the community needs.”
The decreased carbon footprint of less vehicle use and fuel savings are also benefits as the mulch mowers that most people already have puts my forward thinking youth to pragmatic use. “Leaves are severed into tiny little pieces, they fall between the blades of grass and enrich the soil as they breakdown to organic matter,” says Mitchell.
In other words, the only trace left behind by spring will be a healthier lawn. Part of the productive process is that the organic matter provided by the decomposed leaves creates air space for drainage. “It keeps the soil from being too compact,” she says.
Of course, the lawn not racked on my street led to dirty looks and muffled grumbling among the more diligent. In “Leaves” case, it actually works the other way. Leaves piled on Bedford sidewalks are far more likely to blow around than the tiny splices that mulch mowers leave behind,” she says.
Phosphorus, on the other hand, won’t get that treatment. Foliage left on the street waiting for pickup has the compound contained within. In turn, as the leaves await their removal the less than friendly chemical clings to the asphalt. In turn, the remains runoff into the reservoirs, streams and ponds and helps create algae. “That really kills the activity of the water body because it diminishes the amount of sunlight getting through,” she says.
No matter, her initial presentation to the town came with skepticism. Nonetheless, Bedford has now adapted the procedure for public property and purchased the very reasonable prices attachments for their landscaping equipment. “They were happily surprised,” she reports.
But she concedes that the pace among residents and landscapers will likely come at a slower speed. “I think they’ll be plenty of leaves on the sidewalks this fall,” she says, “but I’m confident the change will come to the community.”
As for me, I can’t wait to send this article to my dad.
Rich Monetti interview of Fiona Mitchell