Leaves of spring drop reminders to recycle, compost

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMarch 20, 2012 

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Now that spring has officially sprung in the Lowcountry, it's time for our annual blizzard.

It's a blizzard of leaves. Our evergreen oaks are spewing brown leaves from the sky so thick they can block the sun.

I figure it's God's way of getting back at us for inventing the leaf blower.

But a friend assures me it's God's way of telling us to compost.

"The largest consumer in the world is not us," he said, "it's Mother Earth."

The earth will happily digest all our leaves, said Tom Kurtz of Hilton Head Island. The leaves are not a problem. The problem, he says, is plastic that the earth will never devour and that mankind should never use.

I told him I was considering buying a mulcher to reduce the amount of leaves I have to load into an old SUV and haul to the place in our housing development where tons of yard debris is ground into mulch. Bear in mind the vehicle has the carbon footprint of an aircraft carrier, not to mention the steel-booted footprint this chore leaves on my lower back.

Tom told me to pile the leaves in a way that they will decompose over time. Then I must harvest the nutrient-rich soil that they turn into and use it to make my scraggly plants happy.

This may require a neighborhood composting party to distribute all the compost, or perhaps even a neighborhood compost pile, but what's wrong with that?

Tom said not to fool with a mulcher, but that I might want to look at the composting operation Cathy Stangroom uses at the Moss Creek Equestrian Center.

She bought a system from O2Compost in Snohomish, Wash., whose vision is to change the world's thinking from "organic waste problem" to "natural resource opportunity."

Cathy uses the system to add air and water to the manure and bedding from the stables, and in a month, it produces odorless black gold that gardeners love. Her system reduces waste, while eliminating flies and odor. She sells the organic compost, which she calls "Giddy Up'n Grow." But her plans to market it have taken a back seat to running a stable with 20-plus horses.

O2Compost told me aerated composting can be used on any organic material, including the renewable resource of leaves in my yard. The method is often associated with sustainable agriculture, but New York City uses it to recycle debris from city parks.

So, those are not leaves all over my yard. They are natural resource opportunities.

And with opportunity comes an obligation to compost, recycle and stay in synch with Mother Nature.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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"Giddy Up'n Grow"

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