Autumn Leaves . . . Love 'Em and Leave 'Em Print

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By Gretchen Pingel, Member, Bronxville Green Committee


Sep. 20, 2017: Autumn in Bronxville is beautiful . . . but what to do with all of the fallen leaves that litter our yards, accumulate in our streets, and clog our stormwater catch basins? There is a simple answer--don't rely on lumbering village leaf vacuum mobiles. Abandon the rake and the blower. Just love 'em and leave 'em! 

Since 2013, communities in Westchester have been encouraging homeowners to leave fallen leaves on their lawns and shred them in place with a mulching mower. The initiative, called Love 'Em and Leave 'Em, has a great website (leleny.org) with how-to videos and information explaining why returning leaves to the soil through mulching reduces costs for municipalities (less leaf collection, fewer clogged catch basins) and makes gardens thrive.

I am happy to say that all of the leaves on Bronxville Village property are mulched in place. Why don't you try it too?

So, how does it work? You need a mulching mower--most landscapers have them--make sure yours does. A mulching mower is simply a power mower that cuts and recuts grass, leaves, and small twigs (dry is best) as they lie on your lawn (no need to move them) into tiny bits that settle between blades of grass, enriching the soil with nutrients while improving soil structure and drainage. Mulching mowers can also quickly convert enormous leaf piles into handfuls of finely shredded leaves that can be spread around the roots of trees, shrubs, and garden beds to give protection from the harsh winter climate and to supplement soil erosion from excessive leaf-blowing.

Leaf mulching is great for the garden . . . but remember, your garden benefits from some leaves left unshredded, too. For example, don't worry about fallen leaves on your pachysandra bed. However, if you must, remove only the leaves on top (with gloved hands; a rake or blower will tear the plants), but leave the ones that have worked their way in between the plants to stay and protect the stems and roots from winter snow and frost. During spring clean-up, leave the embedded leaves in place to slowly decompose. Easy.

Also, bear in mind that little critters like chipmunks and certain bird species, as well as the pupae of beneficial insects like moths and butterflies, greatly appreciate a part of your yard that is left “wild,” with fallen twigs and leaves intact, where they can seek refuge in during the cold months. So find a place in your yard that you can bear to ignore and allow it to become a safe haven for tiny local wildlife.

If I haven't yet convinced you to love 'em and leave 'em this fall, I leave you with a quick list of persuasive reasons from leleny.org, which I hope will! 

Why Love 'Em and Leave 'Em? 

•  Saves money: Helps keep your taxes down by reducing municipal leaf pickup and disposal. (Landscapers can also save operating costs by needing smaller crews and avoiding dumping fees.)
•  Saves effort: Many homeowners (and landscapers) find that mulching leaves in place actually is easier than raking, bagging, or blowing them to the curb.
•  Keeps your property healthy: Leaf mulch recycles nutrients into your soil to feed your plants, improves soil health, and helps retain moisture, reducing the need for watering in dry spells.
•  Helps the planet: Transporting and disposing of leaves from your curb wastes energy and contributes to pollution. In addition, LELE helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your local community.

Photo by N. Bower