For dry leaves, mulching and composting are two best strategies.
Just a quick recap of both,
Mulching is mimicking what happens in natural landscape. We cover the soil surface, in garden, in plant beds, in pots and planters with crushed dry leaves. Layer of dry leaves helps soil retain moisture.
In natural landscape, with monsoon, dry leaves decompose, and nutrients are returned to the soil. In our case, it is not possible to let dry leaves remain where they have fallen and let rains take care of it. Hence, we collect the leaves, and proactively do the process which nature would have done at its pace, that is called composting.
With mulching and composting, we go quite close to natural process. That’s why they are ranked on 1st and 2nd.
However, sometimes, quantity of dry leaves is so much, that even after mulching and composting, you have surplus leaves. Then this is the 3rd option, leaf donation.
I stress this point again, donating all the leaves is not at all advisable. In case mulching and composting is not possible, go for some laid-back options described as benign neglect method.
What exactly is leaf-donation?
What we do?
It is exchange of dry leaves from people who have dry leaves to the people who want dry leaves.
Here is the basic concept.
So availability and requirement, both exist in the same city.
Who are these people who want dry leaves?
I know what you are thinking. Yes, concept and all, very nice, but how is it possible in practice?
Who are these people who want dry leaves? Do such people really exist?
Answer is YES!
These people are all around you. Yes, I am not kidding, believe me.
There is a growing trend towards gardening and terrace gardening in the cities. Pune and Bangalore are pioneers in this. Other cities seem to follow the suite.
As you know, in the cities, space is the biggest constraint. Very few lucky ones have a garden around their house. Majority of others utilize their balcony and terrace to cultivate garden.
The challenge for balcony and terrace garden, is where to get the soil from?
Buying soil is not financially feasible. And it is not ecologically advisable as well. When we transport soil from one place to another, we deprive that area of the soil.
So, what do these gardeners do?
They utilize compost made of dry leaves and kitchen waste. Sometimes along with soil, if it is available and sometimes completely without soil.
As you can guess, these gardeners are in constant need of dry leaves. As donors wonder what to do with dry leaves. These takers too have similar problem. Where to get dry leaves?
People who have dry leaves, have this huge challenge, what to do with them. Believe me, getting dry leaves is not that easy either.
What if we connect these two people? Done!! Problem is solved, right?
Okkay, now concept of leaf donation is clear.
Even if you are not convinced at this point that leaf-takers exist, I suggest, you keep faith in me for some more time.
Here, I will provide an example of how I have set up leaf-exchange system in Pune city in the state of Maharashtra.
blog. Next section also contains some case-studies about some more leaf-takers, who use dry leaves in a large quantity and are always looking for leaf-donors.
Case-study: How Brown Leaf forum came into being in Pune city
As mentioned above, I realized leaf-donors and leaf-takers both exist in the same city. Need was to connect the two.
That was an eureka moment for me. I realized, if we can connect these 2 types of people, we can prevent lot of dry leaves from burning.
With this idea in mind, I immediately created a very basic, free website and a facebook page. I drafted one message and circulated it on whatsapp groups.
The response I got was phenomenal. People liked this concept. I got messages from leaf-donors and leaf-takers both. It was a validation that my idea had takers.
That is how first exchange system was setup. Leaf-donors and leaf-takers, both started calling me. I used to note down details of leaf-donors and used to share those details with leaf-takers in their area.
Initially it was fine. But very soon, the idea caught on and I started receiving a lot of calls every day. Handling so many calls along with my regular professional work and personal life became challenging.
So, I decided to create area-wise whatsapp groups where leaf-donors and leaf-takers, both were present. Now leaf-donors and leaf-takers could directly interact with each other. I assumed, for a leaf-taker, it would be convenient to pick-up leaves from leaf-donor in the same area.
Eventually I realized, there was no need of such division. Some people commute to office in other area and for them, picking up dry leaves on the way was more convenient. So, area-wise groups did not make much sense.
Also, managing so many groups became difficult. When we started organizing demo visits, I had to transmit same message to all these groups, which was time-consuming.
So, later I dissolved area-wise groups and created one single Brown Leaf group.
Process is simple. Brown Leaf Donors collect dry leaves in gunny bags and drop a msg on the group, indicating quantity and the area. Brown Leaf Takers for whom the area is convenient, respond and arrange for pickup.
No financial transaction takes place, that is the beauty of the system. Nobody pays any money to each other. It all happens in the spirit of collaboration. Both of them are simply helping each other. Leaf-donor has surplus leaves, which he/she donates to leaf-taker who needs them for mulching and composting.
Individual gardeners usually carry 3-5 gunny bags in the car. Brown Leaf Takers choose the donor near their residence or on route to office. This is how, without consuming any extra petrol, they can get the leaves they want.
Since its inception in February 2016, Brown Leaf forum has enabled exchange of around 30,000 bags of dry leaves.
If not for Brown Leaf forum, all these leaves would have been burnt.
Such forums can be created in all the cities. You yourself can do this in your city and prevent burning of dry leaves.
We will check a step by step process for the same, later in next sections.