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What to do with your leaves

“City governments waste tax dollars with leaf cleanup every fall. Whose job is it to change this?”

WHIO Radio’s “Garden Guru” — Mark Webber — recently posed that question on his “Garden Talk” blog and his Saturday morning show on the station. He and I have discussed this topic off the air in the past, so I decided to talk with some local city service directors and delve into the subject further.

Webber advises “don’t rake your leaves to the street, mow them down and leave them in your yard. It’s free plant food!”

He — and others, like Clark County OSU Extension Office Director Pam Bennett — convinced me of that wisdom years ago. The only raking I do is to get the leaves off the porch, driveway and sidewalk and into the grass, so they can be chopped up by the mower.

In New Carlisle, Service Director Howard Kitko says residents are asked to rake leaves out to the curb a week prior to collection. The city is divided into four sections, with two collections in each section. Northwest is being collected this week; Southwest next week; Northeast the week of Dec. 2; and Southeast the week of Dec. 9.

City crews use a towable leaf machine with a hydraulic nozzle that sucks up the leaves from the curb and gutter and shoots them into a dump truck.

Two to three people work on the equipment at a time, compared with a minimum of three under the previous system that utilized equipment damaged by straight line winds a few years ago. Before that, New Carlisle relied on front loaders and dump trucks to complete the annual task of collecting leaves from its streets. That was both very time consuming and labor intensive and sometimes resulted in damage to the street surfaces.

Kitko told me he has received good reaction from citizens to that system. Residents can also bring bagged leaves to a drop-off point at 600 West Madison — behind the old New Carlisle Elementary School — until Dec. 22. The city’s franchised trash hauler, Waste Management, will pick up leaves placed in the trash toter or in yellow bags only. Leaves in other bags will not be accepted.

Springfield has a different way of collecting leaves.

It contracts with a trash hauling company that picks up bagged leaves twice each fall. City Service Director Chris Moore says it’s been Waste Management for a long time and the company does it very efficiently because they do door-to-door collection every day.

The company brings 25 to 30 trucks on two separate days — the final one is Dec. 7 — and picks up all the bagged leaves that are set out throughout the city. The leaves may be placed in any kind of trash bags.

Moore says that system has been “well received, people have learned about it over the years and it goes off without a hitch.”

He points out the contract cost is about $50,000 annually, but the city couldn’t do it itself because of a lack of personnel and the trucks that would be used are equipped as snow plows this time of year.

In addition, Moore encourages residents to mulch their leaves whenever possible.

Contact me at or 937-328-0341.

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