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Leave The Leaves Alone

Now’s the season when we practice strange rituals. No, not decorating our bushes with spider webs and skeletons. I’m referring to raking and blowing leaves onto the street, to be carted away by municipal workers. It’s puzzling why we remove a free source of nutrients for the soil, pay workers (through taxes) to cart them away, only to buy it back in the form of compost from landscapers.

Now a group of Bedford environmentalists and Westchester master gardeners are on a campaign to stop this ritual, by educating the public on the benefits of fallen leaves.  The campaign, called “Leave Leaves Alone“, implores homeowners and landscapers to simply mow over the fallen leaves with a regular or mulching mower (a curved blade that can be fitted onto a regular mower). Mowing over a thick coat of leaves a couple of times grinds the leaves so small that they sink between the grass blades, improving soil texture and feeding the micro-organisms that are so important to soil health.

Ground-up leaves are such an excellent organic fertilizer for your lawn and garden beds, there’s no need to purchase expensive fertilizer treatments. With a few million years of evolution under its belt, nature has recycling nutrients down to a science. Healthy soil, healthy grass. In the process, we create less pollution and save tax dollars on fuel and manpower.  Click here if you still need more convincing.

An Abundance of Leaves

If you have a lot of trees, mulching them into the lawn cannot make them all disappear. I rake extra leaves into my garden beds. They protect my plants over the winter, modulate soil temperature and prevent soil erosion. By next fall, all the leaves have been consumed by the worms and other soil critters into dark, rich compost. If you don’t like the natural “forest floor” look, you can cover the whole bed in winter with a layer of shredded mulch, for a cleaner style. 

Now is the time to have a talk with your gardener. They may balk at this practice, since most only know the outdated way to clear leaves. Be firm. It may take a few mentions to the head boss before your lawn crew gets the message that you want to mulch the leaves into your lawn, and put the extra leaves in your beds. Your soil will thank you by growing thicker, healthier  shrubs and grass without chemicals.

Notify your landscape company about these upcoming demo/training session:
Thursday, November 3, 7:30 pm at Eastchester Town Hall

To reserve a spot or for more info contact Anne Jaffe Holmes 914-813-1251,

For helpful tips and tricks on leaf mulching and composting, click here.
Become their Facebook fan here:

photo: flickr

Catherine Wachs is The Lazy Gardener, a Larchmont-based landscape designer.


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November 11, 2011 2:50 PM

Absolutely! I have been doing this for years already – I am so happy others are finally waking up to it. How silly we humans can be sometimes. I used to have a landscaper who would blow all the leaves out of my garden after I had deliberately packed them around my plants as a protective winter mulch. Sometimes it’s hard to re-train these guys, but I say let’s all at least try!

November 11, 2011 2:17 PM

A group in Bedford, Leave Leaves Alone, promotes just that. See
Why smart gardeners mulch the leaves on site; why smart landscapers mulch leaves on site. why it saves tax money and helps improve our environment. AND MORE.
I wish we would get something like that started in the Larchmont/Mamaroneck area!!!

Catherine Wachs
November 4, 2011 3:31 PM

The whole process is wacky. I went to the conference last night, and it costs Westchester county $4 million dollars a year– for leaf litter! It makes so much sense to keep them on our property. Or donate extra leaves to local gardeners, who love it for compost.

Another thing I heard last night was that the blowers actually destroy the soil. That’s why many garden beds have gray, rocky soil. It is only the minerals that are left– all the good biological activity was blown to smithereens with the noisy leaf blowers.

October 31, 2011 11:47 AM

Great idea! Additionally, the practice of raking the leaves into the street is hazardous, annoying AND defies the sanitation guidelines, sent to all of our homes, that say to leave them on the curb, not in the street!

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