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In the United States, a staggering amount of solid waste is produced. The average resident produces well over .75 tons of trash each year; this totals roughly 200 million tons of municipal solid waste annually. Well over half of solid waste is organic - suitable for composting - and ten percent is leaves and lawn clippings from our gardens. During the autumn season, bags of leaves are needlessly making their way to local landfills and incinerators. As nature^s colorful gifts fall to the ground, consider turning leaves into a long-term investment for your property - and the health of the environment. Leaves can be turned to mulch, a valuable asset for the home landscape and gardens. Mulch helps control weeds, enables soil to hold onto valuable nutrients, permits plant roots to penetrate deeper and conserves moisture in soil by thwarting the effects of rain and snow. Using mulch also protects soil from erosion and runoff caused by heavy rain. In the winter, the combined effects of freezing, thawing and refreezing can disturb the soil in a garden. This same process can damage plants and shrubs. A layer of mulch over the soil acts as an insulator and reduces the danger to plants from the freeze-thaw cycle. While decomposing, mulch releases beneficial plant nutrients and improves the soil^s composition. Leaves - turned to mulch - can accomplish all this at no financial cost to homeowners. Using leaves for mulch works best when they are ground up or permitted to partially rot. Decayed leaves are called leaf mold. The chemical makeup of leaf mold is the closest thing in nature to pure humus. Leaves, unless chopped up, tend to decompose quite slowly. If collected annually, however, a huge pile of leaves becomes a rich and continuing source of mulch for distribution on gardens, shrubs and trees, even for top-dressing lawns. Simply dig to the bottom of the leaf pile where decomposition has done its job. Oak or beech leaves, if used exclusively, will make a slightly acidic mulch, good for broad leaf evergreens and blueberries. If you choose not to use leaves for mulch this fall, consider adding them to the compost heap. Mixed with other ingredients, leaves will decompose more quickly and build your inventory of compost. Each year tree roots gather elements from the soil and send them to tree leaves for ^temporary^ storage. This fall, return nature^s nutrients back to the soil by harvesting leaves and making much ado about mulch. American P.I.E. Public Information on the Environment 124 High Street, P.O. Box 340 South Glastonbury, CT 06073-0340 Telephone: 1-800-320-APIE(2743) E-Mail:

Uploaded: 2/21/2004