Leaf blowers cause noise, diesel pollution and destroy valuable topsoil and the ecosystems that live in leaves and topsoil. And removing leaves from your property is a waste of a natural resource that you can use.
Why should we stop leaf blowing?
Leaf blowing is very inefficient. In communities where the town picks up leaves, residents (or their landscapers) spend hundreds of man hours blowing and raking leaves to get them to the roadside waiting for pick up. Before the town trucks come round many leaves blow right back onto the yard — or their neighbor’s yard!
Picking up leaves is a waste of taxpayer money..In the small town of Bedford, NY, (pop. about 18,000) where Leave Leaves Alone originates, an average of seven town vehicles used for five weeks, involves at least seven town workers, spending five full weeks collecting our leaves. (And the town only picks up in the more densely populated streets.) Town workers could be deployed to other tasks, saving taxpayers tens, if not thousands, of dollars every year.
Leaf blowing erodes topsoil. It’s not just the leaves being blown, but the topsoil, necessary for healthy plant growth. The topsoil can contain fungi, dog feces and other materials and chemicals that can be harmful when they become airborne and we breath them in.
Leaf blowing can actually result in increased fertilizer use. Because your plants have trouble growing in poor soil, which becomes compacted and doesn’t receive sustenance through decomposing leaves, you may opt for fertilizer use to compensate. Fertilizer can be expensive, and only provides a short-term solution to the soil nutrition problem. It doesn’t solve the soil structure problem. Adding to this issue is the fact that most fertilizers are not applied correctly and the excess chemicals leach into our waterways.
While many people are switching the electric tools, most continue to use gas leaf blowers, which produce high emissions. Most gas leaf blowers have very inefficient engines, with emissions far more polluting than you would expect. This research shows a high performance pick-up truck with emissions many times lower than that of a backpack leaf blower. For the article click here > For the video click here >
Why is leaf mulching (mulch-mowing) better for the environment?
Naturally enriching the soil: Mulch-mowing leaves allows them to decompose close to where they originated — the trees that need the decomposing material in the soil to nourish future growth. Decomposing leaves are a natural fertilizer and improve soil structure.
Less pollution: When leaves are left in piles on hard surfaces they release phosphorous as they decompose. This ends up in our ponds, waterways and reservoirs creating a perfect environment for algae bloom, which causes water contamination. New York State law requires municipalities to pick up leaves within four weeks but science shows that the phosphorous is released far sooner than that. (When leaves decompose when mulched on lawns, phosphorus is not a problem as it is not concentrated and it is actually an important nutrient for plants, encouraging root development.)
Why is leaf mulching safer than putting leaves onto the streets for town collection?
At the height of the fall season, leaf piles on the roads can reduce the width of the road by half causing a serious safety issue, especially with kids walking to school or waiting at the bus stop.
Is leaf mulch safe to use in the garden?
When you use your own leaves to mulch your beds you know that they are disease free. Commercial mulch is usually made from trees that have to come down for a reason — and who knows the reason? When you bring mulch onto your property you risk importing disease or harmful insects.
How is leaf mulching different from composting?
Composting is a part of leaf mulching. After you mulch the leaves into small pieces, the composting process will begin. Composting is the process of allowing organic matter to decompose naturally. Leaves are easy to compost and result in a rich product (also called compost), which can be added to your garden beds or spread on your lawn to improve nutritional content and soil structure, important for healthy lawn growth. Composted leaves reduce in volume more than 10-fold. Leaves will compost without being mulched first — the mulching just makes it quicker.
Does leaf mulch harbor ticks?
Some people have expressed concern that leaf mulching enhances a habitat for ticks. Cornell University conducted research on this and determined that there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case; indeed, university entomologists have expressed the opinion that leaf mulching reduces the habitat for ticks as the mulched leaves are so small and they decompose quickly.
What do I do with all the leaves on my flower beds?
Ecological best practices suggest that leaves are left whole and in place where they fall wherever possible. This would be in flower beds, under trees and shrubs and under tough ground cover like pachysandra and ivy. This provides valuable winter habitat for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for foraging birds in the winter. If we “clean” our yards and remove all the leaves, these creatures will not survive.
If you have extremely heavy leaf fall, or simply can’t bear the sight of the leaves, lightly rake or blow fallen leaves off perennial beds, piling them in rows on your lawn or hardscape, and then mow the rows. The volume is reduced by x10 and the remaining mulch can be replaced on the beds where they will break down forming a protective winter layer for your plants and then gradually turn into compost, enriching your soil.
This can be done in the fall or the spring. It is preferable to wait until spring to remove the leaves from garden beds and around shrubs. Leaves provide an ideal habitat for butterflies to overwinter.
There is no need to remove leaves from robust plants like pachysandra, unless you need to do so for aesthetic reasons. Leaves will fall between the pachysandra plants and by late winter or early spring will not be visible, but will be decomposing and enriching the soil. If aesthetics are an issue through the winter months, remove the leaves by raking or gentle blowing (leaf blowers are VERY destructive to topsoil), mulch them with a shredder or mower, and blow or rake the mulch back onto the pachysandra.