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NYC Parks staff managing leaf mulch project, Washington Square Park, Nov 2021

Leave the leaves is a rallying cry and campaign to land managers to let nature’s mulch, fallen leaves, do the work of insulating the soil, providing habitat for ground dwelling and feeding animals, and returning nutrients to the soil. In Washington Square Park, leaves that fall on lawns are collected, mechanically clipped, and reallocated throughout the park. This is the second year that the park has undertaken this project. We asked NYC Parks Administrator William Morrison about the catalyst and logistics of the park’s leaf mulch operation. Here’s the 411 on the project:

“The motivation is pretty straightforward – why not take advantage of our own leaf drop and recycle it into mulch? Leaf mulch is beneficial for a number of ecological reasons, we have the staff to do it, and it keeps us from needing to dispose of leaves outside the park or buy/receive mulch from elsewhere.

The operation is also fairly straightforward. We rake and collect leaves in a leaf bin erected on a lawn that is slated to be closed for rest and reseeding the following year. Then the leaves are chopped/shredded by a leaf mulcher and redistributed back throughout the park in all of the lawns and garden beds. We shred the leaves to a finer mulch to aid in their decomposition and prevent the smothering of smaller plant roots once the mulch is redistributed.”

Red maple in red fall color, Washington Square Park, Nov 2021

Fall color continues in the park, and red maples are having their moment. You can see this species in a few areas in the park: the southwest corner (above), the northwest corner by the big English elm, and several trees are in the the northeast corner. Join us in monitoring the seasonal changes of trees in the park.

We are thankful for the trees and plants that enrich our lives as well as those of non-human beings. We are thankful for the birds and animals that make the park their home or visit on their migrations. We are grateful to the NYC Parks gardeners and maintenance staff who steward the park. We are thankful for you who support the mission and work of Washington Square Park Eco Projects. Please consider a gift in any amount to sustain our programming in 2022. Make your tax-deductible donation here.

Bird count, Washington Square Park, Feb 2018

For us, the arrival of the very tall fir in front of the Arch signals the upcoming Christmas Bird Count. This annual count in North America began on Christmas Day 1900 and is hosted by the Audubon Society; NYC Audubon for us here in the city. Washington Square Park is a count site again this year. Join us for a collabirdtive excursion on Sunday, December 19, 3pm ET. If you’d like to join the count, please email us.