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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT LEAF MULCHING
Questions and Answers
Why is it important to mulch leaves?
Leaf blowers cause noise, diesel pollution and destroy valuable topsoil. And removing leaves from your property is a waste of a natural resource that you can use.
Why should we stop leave blowing?
Leaf blowing is very inefficient. We 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 your yard -- or your neighbor’s yard! in Bedford an average of seven town vehicles used for five weeks, involves at least seven town workers, spending five full weeks collecting our leaves. If they weren't doing that they could be re-deployed to other priorities.
Leaf blowing erodes topsoil. It's not just the leaves being blown, but your topsoil, necessary for healthy plant growth.
Results is 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. Most fertilizers are not applied correctly and the excess chemicals leach into our waterways.
Gas leaf blowers produce high emissions. Gas leaf blowers are very inefficient engines, with emissions more polluting than a high performance pick-up truck. https://www.edmunds.com/about/press/leaf-blowers-emissions-dirtier-than-high-performance-pick-up-trucks-says-edmunds-insidelinecom.html Video: https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truck-vs-leaf-blower.html
Picking up leaves is a waste of taxpayer money. The time spent by our town workers (approx. 2,500 man hours each fall) could be spent on other things, improving productivity.
Why is leaf mulching safer than putting them onto ths 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.
Why is leaf mulching better for the environment?
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. 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.)
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 to 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. There is absolutely no evidence that this is the case; indeed, in the absence of any research on this topic, 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?
Lightly rake or blow fallen leaves off perennial beds, piling them in rows 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 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 bads 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 later winter, early spring will not be visible, but will be decomposing and enrichhing he soil. If aesethics 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.