NY Times: How Green Is My Garden?

click to go to full articleIn an op-ed in this morning’s New York Times, Thomas C. Cooper, garden designer and former Horticulture magazine editor, encourages gardeners to become ‘backyard biomass producers’ and feed their lawn waste into energy sector.

IF the government wants to reduce its dependency on imported oil and, in the words of the Department of Energy, “foster the domestic biomass industry,” it has only to stop by my backyard with a pickup. The place is an unlikely but active biomass production center — especially at this season with countless autumn leaves eddying in every nook and cranny — and I’ll happily donate my production to the cause.

Is he serious?

I have two concerns with his reasoning:

  • The energy we collect and store in the biomass of our yards is tiny compared with what we burn.
  • That biomass is best used by being returned to the soils in our yards.

Cooper says he’s overwhelmed by how much biomass he produces. But do you know any other gardeners who complain about having too much compost? Sure, put your woody waste on the curb for local recycling. But for goodness sake, rake the rest onto your beds, around the base of your trees and shrubs, or put it in a modest-sized compost bin.

Improving your soil is a better use of that biomass than burning it.

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7 thoughts on “NY Times: How Green Is My Garden?”

  1. I also disagree. My yard produces tons of biomass as well but I relish in it. Those extra leaves have a good tendency of accumulating in my beds and on top of my plants protecting them.

  2. Yeah, this is a case of mistaken perspective. It’s niave to compare biomass production in a home garden to energy use by a community – the numbers wouldn’t even come close to matching up. I haven’t read the article (honest confession) but don’t feel compelled to.

  3. So much of my garden depends on leaf mold, but would you believe that a community near me can’t enact a leaf-burning ban? Many of the residents complain that they have so many trees that they just don’t know what to do with the leaves & it would take too much time & $ to bag them & have them hauled away. It’s the same kind of thinking as the article’s author. Grrr… I feel a rant coming on.

  4. I’ll post an I’m-new-to-NY question and ask you to pardon my ignorance, but what about the weeds? So many composting guidelines warn you about including them in the bin/pile, and we already have a problem with the pile not being hot enough to kill seeds. I try to separate them, and so have a nasty pile I would like to burn rather than use as mulch. (and yes, we’re trying to get the beds mulched properly so the weed problem becomes less and less, but MAN do they grow fast!!) thanks :)

  5. travelinbride:

    Howdy neighbor.

    I’m a pretty sloppy, cold composter. I put a lot of weed seeds into the compost. I’m sure I don’t kill them. Everywhere I spread compost, lots of stuff comes up. Sometimes tomatoes. Sometimes ornamentals I really like. Sometimes stuff I really don’t want.

    I have a theory that weed seeds are ubiquitous. Any place there’s a blank slate, an empty canvas, a niche that can be exploited, something is going to come up.

    My never ending job (plan actually) is to watch those spaces and if something comes up that I don’t like, either take a hoe to it, smother it with mulch, or both.

    Consequently, my bed are pretty wild looking.

    So if you want wild, don’t sweat the weeds in the compost. If you want formal and weed free, make two piles. One with ‘clean’ material and one for the potentially weedy stuff. The latter will still make good compost. You just want to be careful where you use it.

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