Many options for dealing with autumn's fallen leaves


November 19, 2001|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN MY EASTPORT neighborhood, raking becomes one of the last casual social activities before cold and darkness send us inside and out of sight for a few months. We compare notes on our summers, our gardens, the weather, children's lives and local politics, and we plan for the next official neighborhood party - we catch up with each other.

In our area, the city vacuums leaves from the curb. Most everyone pushes their leaves into rows along the curb for the scheduled pickup.

The city takes the leaves and other yard waste to a facility on Route 450, where the material is ground up and composted before being delivered to Truxton Park as mulch. Residents may pick up the free mulch to use in their gardens.

Creating compost

I bag most of my leaves and put them in my compost bin with grass clippings, yard trimmings and food scraps. It takes most of the year to integrate all the leaves into my little black backyard bin, where the transformation continues to amaze me. In a matter of days, the contents of a bin can shrink in half as the materials break down into a rich black compost, which I spread on my garden.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, organic matter such as yard and food waste comprises 23 percent of the waste generated in the United States. When organic waste is composted, it becomes a natural soil additive for use on lawns, gardens and in pots. This material adds essential nutrients to the soil, improves soil texture, moderates temperature and increases the ability of the soil to absorb air and water.

Others take a different approach.

"Raking is not our favorite pastime," says Galesville resident Mike Broglie. "We wait until 98 percent of the leaves are off the trees and mow them up into a bag and put them right on the flower beds and around the trees as mulch."

He then spreads a little commercial mulch on top to make it more attractive.

Artistic touches

Broglie also said leaves are fun to use for decorating. He and his family stuffed some of their clothes with leaves, making headless people to stand watch at the front door during Halloween. And their house windows are decorated with leaves pressed by their daughter.

Educator and studio artist Bobbie Greer often uses leaves in her pottery work. "I love to press them into clay and incorporate the shapes into my designs," said Greer, an Edgewater resident and Maryland Hall pottery instructor. "What I like is the veins. They intrigue me. You can reproduce the shape of a leaf, but not the texture of the veins. The imprint of all the different veins creates a lovely texture and design that works well in hand-built forms and with glazes."

Local impressionist artist and Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence John Ebersberger said he loves the intensity of fall colors but finds it hard to do pieces that take more than one day because things change so quickly. "As an impressionist, you try to use color to depict the light striking the foliage. Finally, the leaves are turning the colors that I paint them all year." Ebersberger has works on display at Annapolis' McBride Gallery through Dec. 2.

Annapolis resident Sue Buyaskas doesn't use her leaves artistically. She rakes them back into the woods behind her house. That is a favorite strategy of those with wooded areas along their properties. Even Quiet Waters Park takes that approach so that the leaves will decompose and enrich the soil.

Collection services

Anne Arundel County collects and composts yard waste, including leaves, thereby keeping a valuable resource from taking up expensive space in the county landfill. Yard waste is collected at the Glen Burnie, Sudley and Millersville convenience centers, at the Millersville landfill, and year-round on a weekly curbside schedule. In addition to collection services, the county offers educational and technical assistance services to businesses, schools and homeowners about backyard recycling. It offers free compost bins to residents.

Leaf burning is allowed only in areas of the county that do not have curbside pickup. But because of dry conditions, the state recently imposed a ban on outdoor burning. The ban applies to open-air burning in woodlands, within 200 feet of woodlands, and in any area where flammable materials could ignite and carry fire to woodlands.

"Primarily, this ban is geared at open-air burning of items such as leaves, trash and brush," said Department of Natural Resources Secretary J. Charles Fox in a news release. "Until we get a good soaking rain across the state, conditions will remain ripe for fires. We all need to use common sense while out and about. Something as simple as flicking a lit cigarette out of your car can start a fire that can quickly endanger lives and property."

Information on leaf disposal and composting: Maryland Department of the Environment, For Annapolis' leaf pickup schedule: 410-263-7967 or County recycling program: or 410-222-7951. Information on the outdoor-burning ban: Maryland Department of Natural Resources,

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