Utilize the leaves, don’t get rid of them!

Every year it seems almost as predictable as the seasons, there is a debate in Effingham as to whether to allow the burning of leaves. Many people who would burn or otherwise dispose of their leaves don’t realize that these leaves have value that they are wasting.

Trees with their normal life processes, absorb water and nutrients from the soil, and in the fall, the leaves drop as nature’s Way of recycling the nutrients and carbon in the leaves back to the soil. Nutrients can be replaced out of a fertilizer bag, but what about trace elements and above all-carbon. Everyone knows that soil nutrients are important for growth, but most people don’t understand the value of the carbon in the leaves.

Soil fertility comes mainly from a thing called cation exchange capacity. This has to do with the ability of a soil to hold onto nutrients and water molecules. The higher the cation exchange capacity, the better for the plants you are trying to grow. Many things go into cation exchange capacity, like the type of clay in the soil, and most importantly, the organic matter or carbon. Organic material, like leaves or lawn clippings, rot down in the soil and become humus particles. Humus particles and clay particles are what holds and supplies nutrients and water for our lawn and plants. Getting rid of this organic material every year has the effect of mining the soil. Every year, as the leaves are removed — burned — the soil gets poorer and poorer.

I am a certified arborist and often I get called to wooded properties where the leaves have been removed for perhaps, decades. This is especially common out at the Lake Sara area. I hear people complain about dead spots, or perhaps, mushrooms growing out of trees.

Some say that their trees are doing poorly. What they don’t realize is that many of these trees were growing in a woodland — a forest — before house construction and civilization of the area. Each year they drive nails into their trees coffin by removing the leaves, which could resupply the carbon, which is being lost every year. Then, they wonder why they have tree problems. Trees and turf don’t get along very well! That’s why you don’t see much grass in a forest or many trees on a prairie.

The answer to all this is not that difficult. You can have grass and trees both if you invest in a mulching mower. A mulching mower grinds up leaves and all but makes them disappear. You may have to mulch several times a week if you have a lot of leaves, but at least, you keep that precious carbon. If you don’t have this type of mower, you can get a pull behind lawn sweeper, pile the leaves, and compost them. Then, put the compost back on the yard later. A mulching mower is easier.

Many properties are being mismanaged and outright damaged by well meaning people who think they have to “get rid” of leaves. Utilize the leaves, don’t get rid of them! While you are at it, keep the lawn clippings. They do the same job as the leaves.

David H. Pals, Teutopolis

Hospital association supports tax amendment

In the November 3 election, Illinois voters have a critical decision to make at the top of the ballot – whether to approve a question on a proposed amendment to the state constitution replacing Illinois’ current flat income tax rate with a graduated tax structure that the federal government and most states already have. This plan would result in the state’s wealthiest taxpayers paying higher rates, while all others would see no change or slight reductions in their current tax rates.

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association supports this initiative. It is vitally important that Illinoisans, especially the most vulnerable populations — children, pregnant women, working families, senior citizens, and the disabled — have access to the programs and services they need, including healthcare. In addition, we all must address health and healthcare disparities that have been starkly exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately devastated communities of color.

To ensure Illinois has a strong, equitable healthcare system that serves everyone, the state must have predictable, stable financing, and moving to a graduated income tax is a fair and workable way to address the state’s financial challenges and needs. Without stable funding, our healthcare system could face deep cuts leading to less available and less affordable healthcare.

As voters return mail-in ballots in the coming days and weeks or go to polls on November 3, we urge a “Yes/Si” vote on the proposed constitutional amendment for a graduated income tax. The health and well-being of all Illinoisans depend on it.

A.J. Wilhelmi, President & CEO, Illinois Health and Hospital Association

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