Use Your Leaves!

Leaves in front of our house

I grew up thinking that these piles of leaves everywhere in the fall were essentially a nuisance. They attracted dog poop and were therefore potentially dangerous to play in. Yet fresh piles of leaves were definitely played in. And otherwise, that they just looked messy, and you had to spend all this time raking and sweeping them up just to have them hauled away by the street cleaner. No more!

As I’ve grown and watched more and more seasons pass with each trip around the sun, I have come to recognize the inherent value of leaves. In particular, they are possibly the best building block for making garden soil at home. Sure, plenty of people are composting their kitchen scraps nowadays, but how many people are actually using all of the leaves in their yard to make soil? I’d guess it’s less than 10%. (That’s a lot of trucking and hauling around of leaves that can be stopped!) Leaves contain a massive amount of captured energy, that most of us are letting go to waste. Composting piles can even be used for heating water!

I’ll recommend two or three methods for the soil conversion process today, depending on the volume of leaves you’re dealing with:

1. Small Amount of Leaves
If you only have a small amount of leaves, I recommend mixing them into your compost bin, which you should be doing already if you want good, fast decomposing compost. This is very easy and only takes as long as collecting your leaves and dumping them and mixing them in. Use compost as normal in your garden (as a natural fertilizer and microbiological booster)

2. Medium Amount of Leaves
With this method, you’ll use large plastic bags, like garbage bags will work, although I’ve seen clear plastic bags recommended so it doesn’t get too hot in the sun. The trick to making the leaves decompose even faster is adding a compost accelerant like EM-1 or Bokashi, which you can also make yourself. If you don’t have this, you can make something similar just by letting fruit and vegetable scraps ferment in a bucket, and then straining off the liquid. You dilute and spray the liquid into the bags onto the leaves, just enough to kickstart the decomposition process. After the bags have lost 50% of their volume, mix with additional soil in your garden and you’re ready to plant! More info here:

3. Large Amount of Leaves
If you have a massive amount of leaves, it may not make sense to use so many plastic bags. I would recommend making a single huge pile of the leaves, which you can contain inside a wooden fence, or chicken wire, or just in the middle of a cleared area, and then cover it with a tarp. This will help the pile to heat up considerably, and the leaves will break down over a few months, although you may have to stir it up and wait a little into the spring if you get snow in the winter.

Additional options:
You may want to consider adding mycorhizal innoculant (mushroom spore powder, essentially) to the leaves as well, as this will help both break down the leaves as well as deliver nutritients to your plant roots once the compost makes it into your garden.

Featured Productivity Web

If This Then That: How To Automate Your Web

There’s a cool new web application that you may want to check out. It’s called “If This Then That”, and it lets you connect your social media and web application accounts and create “triggers” that will automatically do things for you. The possibilities are endless, you can basically do anything with this tool. Like, for example: You can set up an auto-response when you get a new follower on Twitter. You can automatically email yourself when the weather forecast says it’s going to rain. And you can automatically move files between different services including DropBox, YouTube, and Photo sharing services…

It’s kind of hard to explain, it’s probably best to just try it yourself. The website is Have fun! And feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you need help figuring it out.


If newspapers really want to “Get Digital”

Update: Google updated Google Goggles today to include a feature which makes the big first step in this direction:

Let’s say you’re reading a magazine article you really like and want to share it with your friends. Just point Goggles at a part of the page, and instantly find a link to an online version to share immediately or read again later. You won’t even need the entire article in the frame. Goggles will also pull up more information from pages around the web where that text is mentioned, so its easier to learn about what you’re seeing. more

Original Post:
So… It seems to me that if Newspapers truly wanted to get “hip”, they would not just use social networks to let their readers spam their friends, but actually integrate with social networks to let their readers connect with their friends and co-comment on articles and create and foster real discussion about the issues presented.
Picture this: For every article in the newspaper, you can scan it with your phone and pull up the online version.. Check in with facebook or twitter or your newspaper website account, and see which friends have read, liked, commented or shared, and then be able to join the conversation either on site or link through to the 3rd party site.
Or how about scanning the front of the newspaper to see which of the articles your friends have read/liked/shared/commented, and then being able to jump to the article on your phone, or see which page it’s on?
This sounds like an epic iPhone/Android/MobileWeb application dev project for any local or major newspaper that wants to not only stay relevant, but be the leader in connecting the physical paper experience with the digital world.
I’d love to work with a local paper on this. 🙂