Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Leaf Blowers Increase Erosion

It's a bleeding of sorts, not of blood but of clay eroding from a yard that was meticulously cleared of leaves in the fall. The ground was left bare and unprotected from the impact of raindrops that loosen soil and then carry it into the street. Leaves not only provide a protective mulch for the soil and fertilizer as they slowly break down, but also provide habitat. Birds, in need of protein to feed their young, can often be seen in the spring flipping leaves over in search of the insects that live underneath.

The homeowner surely thought it was the right thing to do, to blow all the leaves out into the street and have a nice tidy yard. But the result is not so tidy, neither for the street nor for the sidewalk months later. A mulch mowing, rather than a leaf blowing, would have ground the leaves up and deposited them back on the soil, where they could do some good in a tidy enough way.


SFB said...

If you mulch the leaves, how are the birds going to flip over leaves in the spring to find insects underneath? Semi-serious question. It strikes me that once you start mulching, you have accepted that nature's way is not good enough for your yard. Surely the right course of action is to just leave the leaves where they fall?

Stephen Hiltner said...

I was actually wondering about this, too. The birds would probably just stick their beaks under a clump of cut up leaves and give them a flip. Some types of leaves just melt back into the ground, like locust and silver maple leaves. Oak leaves are very rigid and long-lasting, easily blown around, so they can really look messy (by suburban aesthetic standards) and can benefit from getting ground up a bit. The big red oak leaves can also smother and distort any spring bulbs or perennials that try to push up through them in the spring. Certainly in some spots, leaves can just be left where they fall.

SFB said...

I left my leaves where they lay this year, but in all honesty, that's because I was too lazy to rake them! I also think it's pretty bizarre to try to grow an ornamental lawn under deciduous shade trees. Lawns don't grow in semi-wooded habitats. To try to alter this immutable fact require considerable expense, botheration and wasted resources. The lawn itself is basically a pretentious attempt to ape medieval English aristocracy. I'm planning to gradually get rid of mine.