Autumn is upon us. The campus trees are dropping their leaves and tucking themselves in for a long winter's sleep. The result is a beautiful color display as well as leaves on the ground – a lot of leaves. This time of year, to help manage the leaf-fall, you will hear the persistent sounds of leaf-blowing equipment around campus. In total, there are 54 pieces of equipment, manned by 32 staff members who diligently corral the fallen leaves.
Facilities Landscape Service Department collects leaves to reuse as soil supplements in landscaped areas and prevent stormwater drains from becoming clogged and overflowing. Both of these procedures support effective campus operations and environmental stewardship.
If you keep a garden or houseplants at home, you probably know that fertilizer is a vital part of maintaining healthy plant life. When the Landscape staff are clearing leaves, you may notice that these leaves are not just being blown around but that a majority of the leaves are being collected in large piles and sucked up by a vacuum-like machine, (a leaf-vac). This collection process is the first step in our campus mulch composting.
The collected leaves are placed in organized windrow piles where they will be turned and blended for the next two seasons. The decomposed organic matter is then used as mulch to feed re-emerging plants and flowers in the spring. Adding composted plant matter to landscaped areas supplies vital micro-foods to the soil, helps retain moisture and provides a slow release of nutrients back to campus plants, closing the loop of the biological cycle. This practice, combined with the chipping of our end-of-life trees, are both critical components to Tech's sustainable landscape practices.
In addition to supporting the soil-nutrient loop, leaf-collection efforts also reduce the negative impact of leaf run-off into the City of Atlanta’s underground stormwater and sewer management systems. If the fallen leaves aren’t collected and removed in a timely manner, rains will sweep the leaves down into the combined stormwater-sewer pipes. A deluge of leaves and water into the already over-burdened piping system will cause clogs. These clogs can result in a back-up of water movement, increasing street flooding and sewer overflows into our rivers and streams during heavy rainfalls. Without the diligent efforts of the Facilities Management Landscaping and Utilities Maintenance teams, the colorful fall leaves would cause a colorful fall mess.
Through leaf clearing and collection efforts, Georgia Tech is taking responsibility of every aspect of our increased tree canopy. So next time you hear the noisy leaf-blowers, try to remember all of the good things that result from the studious collection efforts of our staff.