Leaf business

Employee Donovan Snodgrass blows leaves east of Pearson

Groundskeeper Donovan Snodgrass, campus services, uses a blower to pile fallen leaves for collection Monday near the Enrollment Services Center. Photos by Christopher Gannon.


Iowa State's beautifully landscaped campus means the campus services team is corralling lots of leaves this time of year -- in fact, several tons each day.

Until the volume overwhelms, mulching decks on mowers chop up a lot of leaves, providing organic matter for soil and turf health, said campus services senior manager Barb Steiner. When there are too many to mulch, the leaves are collected and transported to the university's compost facility (PDF) at the dairy farm south of Ames, where they're mixed with materials from around the university: Manure and bedding from animal sciences farms, food waste from dining halls and plant materials from greenhouses and Reiman Gardens. The leaves and plant materials (high carbon) help break down the manure (high nitrogen), she said.

Each truckload of leaves is weighed, and Steiner said they're currently delivering three to four tons daily to the compost facility. Weight-wise, that's a little light, but the leaves are very dry, she noted.

Mild fall temperatures have kept leaves on the trees longer than normal, and at midweek, Steiner estimated campus services' leaf work is less than half done for the season -- perhaps a week or two behind the timing in more normal years.


Two groundskeepers blow fallen leaves into a pile

Groundskeepers (l-r) Donovan Snodgrass and Kurt Garretson use blowers to advance on fallen leaves and move them to a collection spot east of Pearson Hall.