What to do with our leaves and our floods?

Do our tiny lots of Texas really produce so much wet, leafy waste that we can’t store it and let it decompose right there? We think not, and anyway, compost heaps provide great soil for vegetable gardens! You can be systematic about composting, balancing, and turning carefully for maximum decay. Or you can be lazy like we are, and turn it only partially and occasionally when you are feeling like a little exercise. Water that heap if it gets too dry. Maybe toss a very little nitrogen rich fertilizer on it rarely. With such neglect you still have great compost every few months, at least in our summer heat.

The compost heap is good for insects, for little harmless earth snakes, for exploring children. It will take your kitchen waste. Why bag the leaves and haul them off? Before we were moving, I would collect bags others put out, and add them to my compost heap. I usually had two going at a time, one active, and the other resting, nearly ready to go on the garden. You can use those plastic containers, turn regularly, or not. But please, keep your leaves.

Our neighbors asked us if we were going to reslope our yard, for they noticed how the water pools after particularly heavy rains. The new homes are not only sloped for drainage, but even have drains and pipes to whisk the water away. The solution I like best is what Caitlin has in Austin, a huge tank so rainwater supplies household needs. But our solution is nice too. Our yard pools a little. The fish swim out to explore. It’s wet for a few days, just like the forests would have been that were once here. And then the water goes, having nourished and expanded our gummy Beaumont clay soil.

I don’t think St. Louis floods like Houston does, but there too, we’ll try to keep our leaves and our water.


These bags will go deep in a landfill where they’ll never decompose, I fear.


This is what we do with our leaves, our grass clippings, our kitchen waste, and small limbs.


Vegetable kitchen waste goes in the compost heap too.


When it rains hard, our backyard fills with water, and the mosquito fish swim out of the pond and into the yard.


OK, hurricane Ike caused some damage that needed to be carried off.


We had comparatively little damage.


One of our former students, Jeremy Caves, won a prize for what to do with all the Ike debris.


Caitlin’s huge water tank for all their needs in Austin.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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