Clean up after your trees

Samantha Mathewson

During fall months it is important to care for your lawn and clean up leaf litter. The University of New Haven Athletics department has been voluntarily raking neighbors of North Campus’ lawns during the fall months for upwards of eight years, this year almost doubling the number of houses they visit.

Women’s Soccer (Photo provided by Coach Laura Duncan)
Women’s Soccer (Photo provided by Coach Laura Duncan)

“Our campus is integrated within a community; I think it is very important for our Student Athletes to respect our neighbors living environment and give back from the support that they provide us,” said Laura Duncan, UNH’s Women’s Soccer coach, who heads the community service initiative under the Athletics Department. “Many of our neighbors that ask are elderly and are not able to rake their own leaves.”

Duncan has been a member of the UNH community for five years and the program was already set up when she arrived. In regards to how the Athletic Department reaches out to local neighbors, notifying them of this opportunity, Duncan explained, “We place a flyer on the doors of the street that connect the Main campus to North, a group of Student Athletes are assigned to drop them off and another group will pick them up a few days later. The houses can usually pick from a variety of days that work best for them and then I assign teams accordingly.”

Leaves were raked by various athletic teams and campus organizations Nov. 13, 14 and 20.

Leaves prevent water infiltration into local groundwater systems, which recharge vital freshwater sources. While it is important to remove the leaves from your yard, according to the New York State

Department of Environmental Conservation there are three green alternatives to burning them, which also help keep the air clean.

“A big pile of leaves will decompose, but very slowly so one option is creating a compost pile.

Leaf volume and decomposition time can be greatly reduced by shredding. Rake dry leaves into low piles and mow over them several times with a mulching mower. Up to three fourths of an inch” deep of shredded leaves can be applied to your lawn .You can add shredded leaves to your compost pile, and use the compost in the spring,” stated the New York State DEC. You can see contact details of your lawn expert for more information on the same.

Another green option is using leaves as mulch in your vegetable or flower garden.

“Decaying leaves use up soil nitrogen, so add an organic source of slow-release nitrogen, like composted animal manure, before planting,” suggested the New York DEC. “Keep total mulch depth to three inches or less and don’t let mulch touch the base of a tree or its trunk as suggested by Manhattan Tree Care, or shrubs as this can encourage pests and disease.”

Lastly the NY DEC suggests creating a community municipal compost pile.

“Your community may offer curbside collection of leaves, or allow residents to bring leaves to a central location. Leaves are then composted and the compost made available to the public. Ask your local recycling coordinator if this is an option in your community as not all landfills will accept yard waste,” said the New York DEC.

It is important to refrain from burning leaves because smoke contains dangerous compounds, which can be harmful to residents in the surrounding area and can spark an accidental, larger, fire.

More information can be found at
“Over the last few years the number of houses has grown, I believe this came from positive feedback,” said Duncan. “I think it is a great activity for our teams to take part in an event off the field and judging by the pictures I receive I think they have a lot of fun doing it. Most teams commit an hour to an hour and half per house.”

Senior, and Captain of the Women’s Track and Field team Ivy Watts has participated in the community leaf raking for all of her four years at UNH.

“Each year our team goes out into the community and participates in raking the leaves of the houses in the surrounding area. I really think this is a great experience for both myself and my teammates to give back to the community and help those who may not otherwise be able to do it themselves,” said Watts.

“We are going out into the community and showing that we are here and willing to help. I think that no matter how small our efforts are, we are still making a difference in the community and that is what truly matters. When the residents of the home thank us for our efforts, it makes the time spent outside raking worth it. This experience is important for us to build a relationship with the community and take some time out of our busy schedules to give back and help others. That in itself, is truly a rewarding experience!”

This year there was a larger number of houses interested in having their lawn raked through the UNH Athletic Department. This year a total of 24 houses were raked, in comparison to the 13 houses that were visited last year.

All teams in the Athletic Department rake at least one house and some teams with larger rosters took two.

“Our coaches and administration spent Friday morning raking three houses as a group and multiple organizations from across campus helped out,” said Duncan.

Men’s Rugby Club, Men’s Lax Club, Black Student Union, CJ Club, ALD honors society, Kappa Chapter of Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity Inc. are among the many additional organizations that helped out.