This year the Village of Croton will pick up all autumn leaves by vacuum truck. No more bagged leaves will be picked up. This decision was made at budget time last spring but it is just being focussed on now when the leaves are beginning to fall. Vacuuming of loose leaves has been identified as the most efficient and cost effective means of collection. While this may be the best way to handle leaves for the Village’s Department of Public Works, there may be an even better way for individual homeowners to deal with them.
Several communities in Westchester and elsewhere are taking the lead in advocating the practice of leaving the leaves on the grass, most notably the Town of Bedford and the Village of Irvington. Bedford has spearheaded a program called Leave Leaves Alone while Irvington calls their program Your Leaves – Love’em and Leave’em. Both programs say that leaving leaves in place is the easiest and most cost saving way to deal with autumn leaves. Mulching leaves using a mulching lawn mower grinds up the leaves and lets them fall into the grass. These leaves provide healthy nutrients for next year’s lawn and as they decompose, add to the soil structure promoting a better garden and lawn next season. These ground up leaves also can provide a good blanket for helping plants and shrubs to overwinter in the cold months. I'm not sure what a mulching mower is but my mower seems to do the job just fine.
The current practice of raking or blowing leaves removes important topsoil from the lawn. This, in turn, results in the need for fertilizers the following growing season. Fertilizers are not only expensive but they also result in chemicals leaching into our storm water drains and waterways – think the Duck Pond and the Croton and Hudson Rivers.
Each fall our DPW employees spend many hours picking up leaves. This labor intensive practice uses a lot of their time which might be spent on other work, it is also expensive in terms of diesel fuel and equipment costs. On top of that, every ton of leaves costs us local taxpayers $15 when taken to the County deposit site. This is subsidized by the County which pays much more for the actual leaf removal – also paid for by our County taxes.
I figure that mowing over my leaves and letting them lie is easier than raking them up by far. I admit having to overcome an almost instinctive compulsion to clean up the yard by removing all the leaves in the fall. However, my lawn can certainly use some help and maybe this method of autumn leaf management is the answer to making it look better next year. And it certainly removes a lot of guilt on my part about not raking.
For more information on these programs go to www.irvington-ny.gov and click on Green Policy Task Force or go to www.leaveleavesalone.org.