Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stop Wasting Our Leaves on Jo Gro

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 10/17/12. 
Honorable Councilors, Mayor, Manager and Assistant Manager:
          I was walking down Brownell, north of the Water Reclamation Plant, and saw leaves and pine needles had been raked from under the trees.  Please stop that, and leave our leaves on the soil where they belong.
          Leaves must be cleaned off pavements and lawns, but they belong on soil.  They block germination of weed seeds; keep the soil moist; and feed the life of the soil, particularly worms.  These heavy evergreen photinia leaves and pine needles stick around for a year or more, protecting the soil.
          This city used to tell us to use our leaves in our yards for mulch.  Now it uses soil-killing fine bark for mulch, and takes our leaves to Jo Gro.  This is a waste of effort in cleaning leaves up from where they belong, and a waste of money and effort in spreading fine bark in their place.  That fine bark kills soil instead of feeding it, the soil compacts, doesn’t percolate well, and increases our stormwater runoff and pollution.
          Jo Gro has a reputation for being too hot, so much so that the State does not allow its use on its projects.  Adding leaves to the mix does not help; they are too rich.  To balance your hot sewage sludge, you need cool wood waste, not leaves.  Southern Oregon Compost once had straw in their cow manure; now they use sawdust to balance their compost.  Sawdust is a lot cheaper than fine bark; it would be better to buy sawdust for Jo Gro and use the city’s leaves on city properties to stop weeds and restore the health of the soil.
          Just outside the Greenwood entrance to the Water Reclamation plant, there is a giant black walnut tree.  Its leaves have started to fall and are filling the gutter around the circle at the end of the street.  Please do not send a street sweeper to sweep them up; send in a man with a blower to blow them across the sidewalk, onto the landscape.  Walnut leaves suppress weeds with a natural herbicide that stops germination of small seeds.
          While we have nuisance codes that forbid mature and seeding weeds and litter that the city has ignored since the 70’s, we have no nuisance code requiring cleaning of leaves from pavements.  When the weed code was written in the 60’s, apparently it went without saying that people would clean up leaves from pavements, but that is no longer the case.   We need a code forbidding leaves to lie on pavements, and we need to enforce our nuisance codes.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener       541-955-9040  

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