Leaves Are Not Litter

The leaves are starting to fall. This means your lawn care instincts are kicking in, urging you to get out there and clean them up ASAP. But before you start mowing, blowing, and shredding, there are some great reasons to do otherwise.

Free mulch

Free mulch, beautiful fall colors

Using wood mulch can be pricey and time consuming. So, why not use what nature provides for free? In the past we were told that leaves, matted down by snow or rain, would have a negative impact on plants. However, science has proven you can pile them in your gardens and around your trees and shrubs with no ill effect. A thick layer of leaves provides valuable organic matter, additional insulation against bitter cold weather, and the same weed suppression and moisture retention properties of shredded wood mulch. Plus, you can’t beat leaves for fall color!

Your yard = habitat

One of the best things you can do to support pollinators and helpful insects is to provide them with needed winter cover in the form of fall leaves and standing dead plant material. A vast majority of pollinators (bees, butterflies and moths) overwinter in the landscape as an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult. There are many other types of invertebrates that also call leaves home: spiders, snails, worms, beetles, millipedes, mites, and more. All these insects support the chipmunks, turtles, birds, and amphibians that rely on them for food. And pollinators are also key to growing crops that humans rely of for food.

While many homeowners opt for mulching their leaves on their lawn or shredding them for use in compost piles, shredded/mulched leaves will not provide the same cover as leaving them whole, and you may be destroying helpful insects along with the leaves.

If you have a spare corner in your yard, consider creating a leaf pile and allowing it to break down naturally. Or add leaves gradually to your compost pile over time. Such efforts will help keep beneficial insects safe.

A beautiful reason to leave the leaves alone!

I’m still buried in leaves!

So, you’ve saved all the leaves you can and still have a bunch left? Then you may need to mulch or send them offsite.

Late spring cleanup

If you decide to clean up the garden and remove the leaves in spring, make sure you wait until late in the season so as not to destroy all the life you’ve helped protect. A good rule of thumb is: if it is time to regularly mow your lawn, it’s probably a safe bet that most pollinators have emerged.

Tired of lawn maintenance?

There are many great alternatives that are healthier for your family, pocketbook, and the environment:

Always check with your city to ensure your alternative landscaping plan meets city codes.

Spring into recycling

Spring has sprung, which probably means you’re itching to get outdoors to clean and landscape your yard. This year, make it extra clean and green by recycling.

Mulch it over

SpringIntoRecycInstead of bagging your grass clippings and leaves, mulch them instead. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water, and protects waterways from stormwater-runoff pollution.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can take your lawn and garden waste to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services.

Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers — contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

Spring is a great time to install a compost bin in your backyard. In addition to making a great natural fertilizer, composting is a great way to reduce the 20-30 percent of your household trash that is made up of food waste and lawn and garden waste.

They lurk in your garage

Dangerous lawn and garden chemicals put the health and safety of your family and the environment at risk. Safely dispose of hazardous chemicals through a household hazardous waste program. These programs also take paint, automotive fluids, cleaners, bug sprays, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs and other household products labeled danger, warning, or caution.

Pots and trays and bags, oh my!

When you’re done landscaping, recycle your plastic planting pots, trays and landscaping product bags (packaging for mulch, topsoil and other soil amendments). After a quick rinse, pots and trays can be recycled in your curbside bin or be taken to area recycling centers. After a thorough rinse (i.e., they’re 100-percent clean and dry) landscaping product bags can be recycled with plastic bags at your local grocery or “big box” store.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

New yard waste management options for Jackson County

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

In 2012, Jackson County received a $15,000 grant from the MARC Solid Waste Management District to survey residents living in the eastern part of the county to determine interest and need for a yard waste collection facility. More than 1,500 surveys were completed by residents of Blue Springs, Oak Grove, Lake Lotawana, Lone Jack, Grain Valley and the unincorporated area of the county. The findings of this survey indicated that residents:

  • Have a need for additional yard waste disposal services in the area.
  • Recognize the need to properly manage yard waste.
  • Believe local government should have a role in addressing yard waste management needs.

EJC Yard Waste SignAs a result of this survey, the county received $64,632 in grant funds from the district to support start-up costs for a regional yard waste drop-off facility. The site is located near Pink Hill and Ketterman Road in Oak Grove on land owned by Jackson County. The cities of Blue Springs, Oak Grove and Grain Valley collaborated with the county on the project.

The Eastern Jackson County (EJC) Yard Waste Collection Center officially opened on June 5, 2014. The facility collects leaves, yard clippings, tree limbs, brush and large tree debris.

For more information about the EJC Yard Waste Collection Center, including hours and fees, visit the county’s website or call (816) 847-7050.