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Bedford’s annual ritual of raking, blowing, piling, bagging, and trucking leaves out of residential neighborhoods costs each homeowner - or their landscaper - hours of time each fall and robs our yards of one of nature's greatest resources: rich, natural compost. The town’s curbside pick-up program requires Town of Bedford workers to spend many hours scooping leaves up from the street and carting them to a composting facility. Each fall in the Town of Bedford it takes 10 people with 10 vehicles six weeks to pick up leaves. This practice causes diesel pollution, and is a waste of time and a waste of money -- our money -- our tax dollars. There are alternatives and they’ll save you time AND money. The sustainable way of managing leaves involves mulching or composting them on your own property. It's safer, more efficient, saves time and money, minimizes pollution and is better for your soil and plants. If we stop blowing our leaves onto the streets for the town to pick up, everyone wins.

Time to End a Wasteful, Outdated Practice

Mowing The Leaves

Undoubtedly, the easiest way to get rid of leaves is to mow the leaves into your lawn. If you mow weekly, one pass will probably be fine. The chopped up leaves fall between the grass blades, decompose and nourish the soil. No need for lawn fertilizer, no need for raking! The mowing of the leaves will break them into smaller pieces. This is called mulching

What is Leaf Mulching?

Leaf mulching is the practice of chopping leaves into small pieces. Mulching can be done with a lawn mower or a leaf shredder. Mulched leaves can be left on your lawn (they fall between the grass blades) or piled 3" or 4" deep on garden beds and around shrubs where they act as a protective layer in the winter and, in the growing season, prevent weed growth and help conserve water. Leaf mulch decomposes over time, adding important nutrients and structure to the soil.

Composted leaves reduce in the volume of the leaves more than 10-fold.

Mulch-mowing can be done by both homeowners with small mowers or large commercial landscaper equipment. Deep piles of leaves are no match for landscapers equipped with leaf mulching blades and deck attachments described on our Equipment page. The small pieces of leaf material that is left on the lawn after a deep pile like this has been mulched can be raked or blown around shrubs or simply redistributed around the lawn to slowly decompose and feed the soil.

Leaf Mulching in Action

How to mulch your leaves

with a pushmower

Improve Soil with Leaves

The Benefits of Leaf Mulching

  • Mulching causes less noise and reduces greenhouse gases
  • Mulching saves the valuable topsoil and reduces the need for fertilizer
  • Muching improves the soil structure and doesn't blow dust and contaminants into the air
  • Mulching saves money and frees municipal work hours for better purposes.
  • Mulching reduces the safety hazzard of piled up or bagged leaves on the roadsites.
  • Mulching avoids water pollution by reducing phosphorus and fertilizer leaking.
  • Mulching suppresses weeds

leaves and plant beds

To add a 2” layer of mulch to a 40 x 4 ft flower or vegetable bed you need one cubic yard (or 13.5 x 2 cu. ft. bags) of mulch. If you get one cubic yard of mulch delivered to your home, it costs about $30; plus there's usually a delivery charge of about $40.

Recommended by...

Leaf mulching and composting is a recommended practice by the following local organizations:

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County, Bedford 2020

The Bedford Garden Club,Rusticus Garden Club

and every gardener and landscaper with science-based horticultural training.Let us add some bigger organizations as well!!!!!!!!

A note from former Bedford Supervisor, Lee Roberts: "I am very supportive of this endeavor, both from an economic and environ-mental standpoint. The more we can mulch and return leaves to the ground, the better for us and for our lawns. I salute your education campaign and applaud your efforts: they are totally in concert with our Bedford 2020 objectives."

From Bedford 2020:

"Leave Leaves Alone is an important step toward fulfilling Bedford's Climate Action Plan. The Bedford 2020 Coalition applauds this effort to improve the health of our local soil and reduce the noise and gas pollution associated with carting leaves away each year. Initiatives like this will help achieve our goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020."

Other Uses for Leaves

RAKE THEM

 

Not a fan of the mowing idea? Go ahead, rake! Pile the leaves somewhere where they won’t be disturbed and leave them alone. It’s best to put them in a spot where they are not too sheltered, as the pile needs to get wet occasionally. After about two years or less, you’ll have rich, crumbly compost, about 1/20 the size of the orIginal leaf pile, ready to add to your flower beds or around your shrubs. You don't have to use the compost; you can just ignore and leave it where it is. Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder

 

SHRED THEM

 

To make your pile decompose more quickly, you could shred the leaves with either a leaf shredder (see photo at right), or a push chipper/ shredder (below), which is more expensive, but able to also handle twigs and small branches. You can also pass over leaves with a lawn mower, or put them in a garbage bin and mulch them with a weed whacker. This is really good when you don’t have much space as it will reduce the volume of your leaf pile to about one tenth of its original size. This also speeds up decomposition: if you do this in the fall, you can expect to have compost by about July.

 

CONTAIN THEM

 

So you like things to be nice and tidy? No problem. Build a container and compost them. The container can be either with wooden pallets or a ring of chicken wire, and rake or blow your leaves into it. They won’t be able to blow around and will slowly decompose and turn into compost. When it’s ready, remove the compost and use it in your garden and wait for next fall to top up the container.

 

VACUUM THEM

 

There are some leaf vacuums that actually work, and work well! They also shred at the same time and allow you to gather the leaves, shred them, and then add them to a compost pile, or place them onto perennial beds and around shrubs as protective mulch, which decomposes and enriches the soil. This is especially good for smaller properties.

 

USE THEM AS INSULATION

 

Shred the leaves into small pieces and return them to your flowerbeds as mulch for winter protection. If they haven’t broken down by spring, remove them (piling them in a compost pile) to allow any tender plants to emerge or leave them and they’ll keep weeds down in the growing season.

 

TOSS THEM

 

Although it’s better to mulch your leaves, and leave the chopped up leaves on your lawn and flower beds so they can enrich your soil, you can just rake or blow your leaves into the woods – if you have woods. The trees, from which the leaves fell, will thank you as their soil is nourished by the decomposing leaves breaking down into compost, just as nature intended.

From Bedford 2020:

"Leave Leaves Alone is an important step toward fulfilling Bedford's Climate Action Plan. The Bedford 2020 Coalition applauds this effort to improve the health of our local soil and reduce the noise and gas pollution associated with carting leaves away each year. Initiatives like this will help achieve our goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020."

Our Organization

Leave Leaves Alone! was developed by a group of Bedford, NY, residents, mostly Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, concerned about the environmental pollution and destruction of soil properties caused by homeowners' practice of blowing and raking leaves onto the streets for town pick up.

We want to remind homeowners of the way things used to be; that nature is there to do most of the work for us, and that fall leaves are actually a great natural resource: one to be valued, and made use of -- on site -- not trucked to a composting facility.

Leave Leaves Alone is located in Bedford Hills, NY tel. 914 261 4986 email: info@leaveleavesalone.org