Member Letter: Leaves for Life – Sustainable gardening using on-site leaf composting

Leaves for Life: Sustainable gardening using on-site leaf composting

Letter from RNA member Kate Cino.
As the leaves begin to fall, Rockland neighbours are reminded of the challenges faced regarding leaf pickup. Leaves on roads cause parking difficulties and sewer grates to clog. Leaves on sidewalks hinder our walking and become slippery underfoot. The endless wait for the pickup truck can be frustrating and confusing for folks. The city website tells us not to put leaves on roadways, but many people do. The city also recommends on-site composting of leaves, but most people don’t.
Several years ago, I asked my gardener. “Why am I paying you all this money to take away my leaves, then paying you more to bring it back as leaf mulch?” He said to me with a little smile: “I don’t know.” That’s when the lightbulb went on and I started composting the wealth of leaves my two large maples deliver each year.
This is a simple process that piles up the leaves in two areas, each about 4×8 feet. I leave the fallen leaves on the planted beds as mulch. The leaves might look messy on the beds but that is nature’s way. The leaves protect the plants from frost and gradually add their nutrients to the soil as they break down over winter. In the spring while cutting back, a light raking removes the leaf residue. The leaf covering brings earthworms to the surface and aerates the soil. 
The leaves that fall on the driveway and lawn I move to the leaf compost area. I am a single senior who uses only a rake and wheelbarrow to do the job. This might encourage others who think the task is too difficult. The pile shrinks down over spring and in the summer I use the rotted leaves (now leaf mulch) for top mulch and soil amending. When I dig holes for planting, there is free and handy soil enhancer close at hand. 
Instead of waiting for city leaf pick-up, try composting your leaves yourself this year. It’s sustainable, practical, and easier than you think!
For more information on leaf composting and to visit a Rockland leaf-composting property, 
Please email