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Good Reasons to Stop Blowing Leaves?

Question:

My neighbors are constantly blowing leaves off their yard.  Besides being noisy and annoying, I know it’s not good for the environment.  How can I convince them to stop?

Answer:

Leaf blowing has become an obsession in America.  At this time of year, in the fall, the relentless hum of leaf blowers is not only disturbing, but highly destructive to our landscapes.  Instead of valuing leaves as part of natural ecosystems, many people have learned to treat leaves like toxic waste – something to quickly clear away and cart to some other location.  Tidiness trumping ecology.  It’s a shame because fallen leaves have so many benefits if they are left in place.

Although rakes can do their own damage, leaf blowers are particularly harmful – denuding and compacting the soil, resulting in unhealthy soil susceptible to erosion.   In some communities, gas-powered leaf blowers are banned for part of the growing season – often from June through September – usually as a noise deterrent.  But, so much damage can be caused to soil and plants by leaf blowers at other times of year.

How can you convince neighbors to “nix” the leaf blowing altogether?  I suggest using education, facilitated by a dinner invitation!  Most folks simply don’t realize why leaves are so important, and what the consequences are to nature, once leaves are removed.  You can help change that.

Here are 6 points to share with your neighbors over dinner:

1) Fallen leaves are nature’s mulch.

Dead leaves act as nature’s mulch – they retain moisture in the soil, they protect soil from erosion and compaction, and they suppress unwanted weeds.  Fallen leaves can be especially protective for many shallow-rooted plants.

2) Fallen leaves “feed” the soil.

When fallen leaves decay, they become natural compost, releasing nutrients into the soil. These nutrients enable plants to grow and be healthy.  It is a process of nutrient cycling.  And, soil that has more organic matter is better able to retain moisture – especially critical in times of drought.

3) Fallen leaves provide habitat to many creatures.

The leaf litter is alive with small creatures that are important to our ecosystems – from microscopic fungi to ants, beetles, snails, salamanders, and many others.  Love butterflies?  Leave leaves alone, as many butterfly species overwinter as pupae in the leaf litter layer.

4) Fallen leaves help to create a food web.

Within the leaf litter layer there are creatures that eat other creatures and in turn, are eaten by others.  Like songbirds?  Keep your leaves in place.  The vast majority of songbirds feed insects to their young, and the leaf litter layer is an insect buffet.

5) Fallen leaves (nature’s mulch and compost) are free!

So many people remove their fallen leaves in the fall, only to buy expensive compost and mulch in the spring. Sounds crazy? It is. Stop the insanity!

6) Leaving leaves in place frees us so much time that you can spend doing something that is actually productive, or even fun!

Sometimes nature’s abundance may be a bit too abundant, with piles of leaves several feet deep.  And, not all plants have evolved with leaves and may not appreciate a thick litter layer – turf grass is one example.  For those situations you can run over leaf piles with a mulching mower, leave some shredded leaves in place, and use the rest in garden beds and wooded areas.  For more information on leaf mulching, visit these two helpful websites: Leave Leaves Alone and Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em .

Good luck!

From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!