Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gardening on the Radio

I was on the radio yesterday to talk about gardening on Spotlight on Spring Hill (WAKM 950 AM) and had several fall gardening topics prepared to share. Then the first guest to talk, our City Codes Inspector, began mentioning some upcoming projects and I nearly got completely sidetracked. You see I meant to talk about leaves, not to burn them, not to waste them, but to use them in your compost or as mulch. I had seen a Craigslist ad that completely annoyed me last week and thought the radio would be a great opportunity to get out the message. The ad actually said "Free leaves, if you don't come get them I will burn them!" Now that is shortened and paraphrased but the ad offered leaves and threatened to burn them! I hope it was merely a motivational tool used to encourage people to take his leaves, but I doubt it. Let me apologize in advance if this offends you but burning leaves is completely irresponsible! It pollutes, it wastes, and it's just plain dumb. Now I'll forgive you if you have burned leaves in the past not realizing why you shouldn't but why would you waste a free and valuable soil conditioner? A mulch that comes down from the heavens to keep the moisture in the ground and feeds the bacteria and earthworms that turn regular soil into fantastic garden gold! Sorry but the issue of burning leaves has always burned me up.

I also meant to discuss lawnmower maintenance. Sharpening the blades, running out the gas, checking the spark plugs and changing the oil are all good things to do now so that your mower will be fresh and ready to go come spring. A little maintenance now is a good thing. (Of course this is yet another thing to add to my Things I've Neglected List!) Running the gas out keeps it from gumming up your engine over the winter.

I mentioned the leaves on the radio but completely ran out of time for the lawnmower talk. Why you ask? Maybe you didn't ask but as I often do I'll tell you anyway. The City Codes inspector mentioned the installation of a rain garden here in Spring Hill at Harvey Park! This coming Saturday from 9AM-1PM volunteers will be helping to create and plant a garden that will help filter water and preventing it from washing contaminants into our stream system. As soon as he mentioned rain garden I grinned. I've installed two kinds on my property and both have been very effective problem solvers. I wasn't necessarily worried about contaminants but was concerned over excess water pooling on our driveway and in another location flooding into our yard through the neighborhood drainage system.

Rain gardens use the root systems of plants to retain soil and to soak up the water to keep it from washing sediment into the streams. The plants serve as filters and clean the water before it enters the streams which is much better for the fish and wildlife that use those areas. One kind of rain garden uses a drainage area underneath a garden as a water holding area. That was actually the first type of rain garden I installed. It collects water from our driveway and brings it into a gravel area below a planting bed I established. Inside the bed are a combination of flowers and grasses that so far have enjoyed the extra water in that location. I've even planted a Yoshino Cherry tree that is definitely thriving in that location. This type of rain garden is more labor intensive to install as it involves digging deep into the soil and putting gravel where the soil was then back filling. It's very effective in absorbing water and solving drainage issues.

My second rain garden was done completely with plantings. Ornamental grasses are prominent along with a birch, beautyberry, and several perennials. The area used to flood back into our yard but the plantings help to defer the water back into the established drainage area and retain some of the moisture in the soil underneath. In the picture the area that is flooded is on my neighbor's property. It was taken back in September just after an extremely heavy rain. If these types of gardens lined our community drainage systems we would all have healthier water systems with fewer erosion problems.  

I was pretty excited to hear that our town is on the forefront of such environmentally sensible ideas. I would like to be there helping them install it but I have a birthday party to attend for a certain almost 2 year old girl! Maybe I can get out there early to help, we'll see, maybe you can too!

8 comments :

  1. This is great, Dave. We should all be following more sensible, as you say, environmental practices. Congratulations on this happening in your area.

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  2. Oh good for you, Dave! If you only reach one person and change their habits about using the leaves rather than disposing of them, it is a success! I loved hearing about the rain gardens too. Our community has a small parking lot that is paved with grass and a special grid rather than concrete to help with water runoff. Gail and I checked it out last weekend. It does make us feel good when our areas seem to *get it*. :-)
    Frances

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  3. Even though burning leaves is a big NO-No and i wouldn't dream of wasting them or adding to the air pollution...I must honestly admit that I love the smell. I can't think of a better gardener to spread the word in his community about mulching and composting leaves...sometimes I think it's an uphill battle and we are pushing against a $32 billion industry that wants people to remove every leaf so they can add petro-chemicals to their lawns. Sorry there! gail

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  4. Well good for your town Dave and great for you to be on the radio. I don't blame you for trying to get the message out about not burning leaves but I must say, the person who offered the leaves was steps above those that just go ahead and burn them. That is a start. Hopefully someone took them off his hands. I burned leaves here once. That was when we first moved in and the yard was a mess. It was the only way I saw to clean it up. Never again and actually, most of the leaves have fallen and I don't even think I have enough to mulch my beds. I can see some lucky neighbor will be happy to see me come with my tarp to take away their leaves.

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  5. Helen,

    Thanks, some issues just are too commonsensical to ignore!

    Frances,

    That parking lot sounds like a neat idea. I think they use a type of paver to make the ground solid enough for cars yet porous enough for good drainage. Do they have to mow the parking lot or do they use a low growing grass?

    Gail,

    No chemicals on this lawn! I don't think chemicals are really necessary. Maybe if you want a lawn like a golf course. I like the wood fire smell but not really the leaves!

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  6. Tina,

    He may have been a step above many but still it's hard to believe that people don't even seem to care that it is illegal to burn them! Sometimes I wonder if other people see gardeners as crazy for the things they do, like hauling away other peoples leaves. I may grab a few roadside bags this year myself!

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  7. Congrats on your radio appearance, Dave!!! It's true, no matter what you think you're going to talk about, live radio has a way of heading off somewhere else, doesn't it? Last time I was on I was planning to talk about landscape tricks to make your yard and deck look bigger, and before I could open my mouth, the hosts started asking about techniques for organizing your basement and attic! (And callers have their own pressing issues, which may or may not relate to your topic.) Oh, well, just gotta soldier on. I agree about the leaves (and also about your take on the smell of burning leaves---I too love the smell of woodsmoke, but not leafsmoke; maybe it's because most leaf piles tend to be damp). It drives me crazy that people have their leaves and grass clippings hauled away, then dump chemicals all over their yards and wonder why they still look so bad! I, too, will grab any bag of grass clippings or leaves I can get my hands on. Once an irate homeowner raced out to the curb where I was carting off a bag of clippings and shouted, "Hey, that's my garbage you're stealing!" Oh, my.---Silence

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  8. I would liked to have heard the program. I'm sure you were great. I'm always amazed at the way people throw out their leaves and pine straw.

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