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Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy’s Chuck Keller had a ‘green’ idea for the city — and it’s free mulch for all

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

Color him green.

All over.

Chuck Keller

Chuck Keller is President of the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy, an all-volunteer 501 ©3 land trust.

And his project — a mulch program – may soon make other locales in Northern Kentucky green – with envy.

“I’ve always had an interest in gardening and the outdoors,” the retired Highlands High School English teacher told the Northern Kentucky Tribune. “We partnered with the City of Fort Thomas on an ambitious green project four years ago and now we’re ready to share it with the public.”

Keller’s “brainchild” was to take all the leaves from the annual fall residential leaf collection and place them on the Conservancy’s properties to create leaf mulch — a nutrient-rich product, he says, perfect for landscape gardens and a few other uses.

Composting leaves is a terrific way to recycle and create a nutrient rich garden soil amendment at the same time.

The nutrient-rich compost

The benefits of leaf compost are numerous.

The compost increases the porosity of the soil, raises the fertility, diminishes the strain on landfills, and creates a “living blanket” over plants.

The Chuck Keller project is four years in the making.

And, how did a retired English teacher become so involved with the earth?

“I just said, ‘Let’s collect leaves, and create compost,’” he said. “And then let’s deal with the city.”

He did. 

In fact, Matthew Kremer, City Administrative Officer for Fort Thomas, is quite pleased.

“We are really excited that the mulch program is starting to provide results for the citizens after four years,” he said. “The Forest Conservancy is an excellent city partner and provides great resource for the city government and its citizens.

“We look forward to the future benefits of the program and others we create along the way.”

Pick it up by the truck full

The program, according to Keller is available to all municipalities, the city and its residents.

“Anyone who wants compost,” he said, “can have it – it’s free for the taking.”

It’s a self-serve program, Keller reminds.

“We took 24 loads to Tower Park last week,” he said, “people come at all hours to make pick-ups. Bring your own shovel, buckets or truck and take as much as you want. And there is no limit. Drive up to the piles, load up and take it home. Make as many visits as you like. The supply can be replenished.”

The project has an economic advantage as well.

“It’s an opportunity to educate resources for people in their own yard,” Keller said, “and save people – and the city – money for landscaping.”

But what’s the advantage – besides money – for composting?

Composting leaves makes a dark, rich, earthy, organic matter that can be used like soil. It adds nutrients to the garden soil and the larger particle size helps enhance the tilth and loosen compacted earth. 
Compost retains moisture and repels weeds when used a top-dressing or mulch.

Feed your yards what your trees gave you.

The mission of the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy is to protect, restore and conserve the natural areas that contribute to the vitality and unique character of Fort Thomas through land preservation, responsible stewardship and the promotion of community awareness understanding, and enjoyment for present and future generations.

They’ve checked every box with their mulch program.

Chuck Keller taught English throughout his career.

Now he’s heavily involved with science.

“I should have paid more attention when I was a student,” he said.

It looks like he did.

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One Comment

  1. Jon Hildebrand says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to educate people on the benefits of mowing the leaves il where they fall? The effort, time, and resources spent collecting the leaves and then distributing the compost seems foolish. I see my neighbors bag up leaves every fall and put them on the curb for collection and I often wonder if they just have been educated or read an article or watched a video about the simplicity of just mowing them in place. Are there many situations where this isn’t an option? Perhaps tree lined streets without grass or gardens?

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