I've raked twice so far and it looks like my new bin will easily accommodate all of our backyard leaves because they compact with every rain.
There should come a time when raking all of your leaves to the curb and expecting city crews to come pick them up will be as foreign as smoking in bars and airplanes or tossing aluminum cans into the garbage.
Currently, the city of Madison spends about $1.8 million a year to collect almost 18,000 tons of leaves.
Not only is this expensive, but it isn't the best environmental practice. For one thing you've got all those heavy city trucks plying the streets and burning fossil fuels. But for another, we're collecting tons of good organic material only to compost it at a central location so that some of those very same homeowners can drive to a city compost site and pick it up.
The city's Engineering Division is in the first year of a four-year study to determine the impacts of changing all of that. It's time for this. I just wish it wouldn't take four years.
It would make far more sense both environmentally and fiscally for homeowners to compost leaves on site.
I've been doing it for the last couple of years, and it's actually easier than raking all my leaves to the curb. The compost bin is a lot closer to where most of my leaves are.
In fact, this summer I built a new compost bin just for leaves and other yard wastes. It's six feet long by two feet deep by three feet high. I built it out of the cheapest materials I could find, some two by fours and some cedar fencing. It cost me maybe $25 and one afternoon to build.
Our yard is pretty average, about 6,000 square feet including the house, and with what I would say is average foliage. I've raked twice so far and it looks like my new bin will easily accommodate all of our backyard leaves because they compact with every rain. By the spring, I'll have a nice leaf mulch we can use on our lawn and gardens.
And I like the way the bin looks in the mid-afternoon sun. It's a piece of ecologically correct lawn art. See for yourself in the accompanying photo at top.
Now, I realize not everybody is going to be into making their own compost bin. It's easy enough to pick up one that is ready made. In fact, the city sells them every spring, though the small black composters probably aren't going to be quite big enough for most fall leaf collections.
If you want to try it out, you can do this a cheap and easy way by just getting some tall plastic stakes and some chicken wiring. Make yourself a corral about the same size as I described above, pile your leaves in and settle in for the winter. By the time spring training starts, you'll be ready to go with a good mulch.