Leave Leaves Alone!

Last weekend’s “06880” post about Westport’s leaf collection program — which included a brief note at the end about the alternative of composting — drew approving comments from readers. 

Alert — and environmentally conscious — reader Bill Kutik followed up with some information on alternatives to leaf blowers from Aspetuck Land Trust. They say:

Hate the sound of leaf blowers ?

You can leave the leaves alone! You really can leave them on your lawn.

Here are 3 simple steps this fall to do less, and help nature more.

Mulch Leaves on Lawns

Leaves are not litter! Mulch mow these leaves right into the lawn. This adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil, which is good for the grass, prevents weeds, and reduces need for fertilizer in the spring. Here’s a video about how to mulch mow. It really is as simple as mowing over the leaves on the lawn.

Leave Leaves in Beds

Leave leaves in your garden beds. They will decompose, adding nutrients and organic matter to your soil, improving drainage and water retention as well as feeding beneficial microorganisms in the soil.

If you must cut back your plants, just leave the cuttings in the bed so the insects and birds can benefit from them. Birds also love last season’s garden debris for spring nest building.

Ease up on the Leaf Blower

If you love nature, ease up on the leaf blower. Aside from the horrendous noise (90-120 decibels) — which in itself is harmful to all sorts of creatures (including human’s ears) — butterfly eggs will be blown far away; luna moths wrapped in leaves will be totally blasted, and frogs and salamanders, snuggled in moist seclusion, will be ripped apart by hurricane-force winds (180-200mph).

If you use landscapers, please tell them you don’t want them using leaf blowers anywhere except on hardscapes. Mulch-mow the lawns. and let nature settle down for the winter.

The Bottom Line…

Tell friends and neighbors to “leave leaves alone.”

Leaves are not litter; they are nutrients for your lawn and garden. Leave them on your property. It’s less work for you — and it’s better for the planet.

Celebrate fall — don’t blow it!

(For more details on what to do with autumn leaves, click here.)

Eventually, fall leaves fall. What are you going to do with those leaves? (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

13 responses to “Leave Leaves Alone!

  1. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    All of these suggestions are quite true but the problem is when you have neighbors who desire a clean and pristine lawn they won’t be pleased when your leaves blow into their yard. Of course back in the day we just burned them.

  2. Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  3. This is great! More people should know how unnecessary it is to get crazy about removing leaves – so much noise pollution blowing them and paper waste bagging them. And leaves are good for the lawn. Also, people mow their grass too low.

  4. You’re on the side of the angels, Dan. I agree with Tom at the top that the practice violates the “suburban perfect” aesthetic that so many people like and should be discussed with neighbors before doing it.

  5. Bravo! Couldn’t have said it better myself. If you want to live in a quiet, and healthier neighborhood, then take those steps and ask your neighbors to join in! To learn more about the hazards surrounding leaf blowing, and help educate our community, contact Sustainable@westportct.gov.

    • Stacy Jagerson Fowle

      Tony, I just mowed my lawn last week and it looks great, but definitely not pristine (leafless) like some neighbors prefer. We need to create some signs that we can put in front of our houses to let our neighbors know that the way our lawns look is intentional and that the practice is better for our green corridor. Something that can encourage and inform neighbors, like the signs for the Pollinator Pathway.

  6. Amen to the above. Consider also the health hazards of two-stroke engines like those use in most garden/lawn devices. The exhaust that comes out of the machine is “rich” in benzene, 1-3butadiene, formaldehyde, and nitrous oxide. All are considered “carcinogenic irritants.” See also a long feature in Discover magazine, May, 2008: “Two Strokes And You’re Out.”

  7. Dan – Thanks so much for this article. I’ve been looking at the pile growing around our house and dreading the work ahead of me. I can now just get the “green monster” out and crunch everything up! And feel environmentally good about it!

  8. amen to less leaf blowers, they’re horrendous. also, isn’t there a rule about no deafening leaf grooming on sundays? the other day there was one at my next door neighbor’s house for approximately nine hours.

  9. Sharon Paulsen

    Great info!

    I’d been doing that for many years at my last home (in a townhouse community now, and can’t stand the leaf blowing the association uses for fall cleanup … makes me ill).

    Way back, I had started reading up on organic ways to control certain insect problems, landed on some “green” garden and “green” house sites, and quickly learned how much our ecosystem is out of wack due to so many factors (chemicals that kill “the good bugs”, leaf blowing, and a million other little things).

    So, my then husband and I started to mulch the leaves with the mower, just as stated in the post. Usually had to do about 4 rounds to get most of the leaves chopped up over the course of a month or more.

    It really wasn’t noticeably “less perfect”, and none of my neighbors cared. Some of them started to copy us after seeing the great results (which took several seasons to start seeing changes, because nature has to catch up to its natural course, after the previous onslaughts, heh.)

    Anyway, I never needed to weed once thing became more balanced, and the “good weeds” that pop up seasonally (clover, dandelion, etc.) attracted more bees, butterflies, and seemed to reduce some of the pesky issues of too many of certain bugs/not enough of the other bugs.

    There is soooo much info online about all of this. If people would just take the time to educate themselves, the world would be a healthier place to co-habitate in!

  10. Nicole Stryker

    Great post!

  11. So why is our Parks and Rec dept. removing leaves from public areas?

  12. Does anyone want to ban two cycle gas powered leaf blowers, at least from May 15th to September 15th? I mulch with my electric push lawn mower.