Leave the Leaves

What would our communities look like if we let the leaves lie?

On a bike ride through JP yesterday, I noticed a lot of leaf blowing going on: At the , at the , in my neighbor's yard. I moved here from California in my twenties and I've always been a little shocked at how much labor goes into the yearly leaf cleanup in New England.

I don't mind raking, composting and bagging. It's a pleasant activity and good for the upper body. But the harsh whine of leaf-blowers seem uncomplimentary to Fall's beauty. Our nerves are assaulted by so much noise in modern life that it must affect our mental health.

Maybe worse, though, is that the small motors of leaf-blowers emit a lot of C02, the greenhouse gas that is warming the planet.

I appreciate that even a small yard requires hours of work to be thoroughly cleaned of leaves--is there another way?

When a leaf falls in the forest, what happens? It joins its kin on the ground. The floor of a deciduous forest is spongy and sweet-smelling soil, slow-cooking over the years. 

What would our communities look like if we let the leaves lie? Many lawns would be "destroyed", gradually replaced by leafy layers of a more natural landscape. Streets, driveways and parks could still be raked, the leaves piled onto garden beds, or bagged for composting by the city. A few green spaces might be preserved as fields for soccer and frisbee, and the rest of us could consider recycling our lawns as flower or vegetable beds, planted directly into the natural mulch.

Come Spring, another benefit would be realized to our eardrums, our climate, our urban soil: Noisy, C02-emitting lawnmowers could be retired to the garage for good.

About JP Green House

Our century-old house served the Woodbourne neighborhood as "Jack's Corner Store" for 70 years. We bought it in 2008 out of foreclosure,and rehabbed it from a derelict state to be a model for low-carbon living. The house features passive solar design, super insulation, recycled materials, triple-glazed windows, a heat transfer ventilation system and an air-to-water heat pump for hot water.

We maintain an average indoor temperature of 63 degrees in the winter without a heating system. Our organic garden provides all the produce for our family from April to November.

Follow us here on Patch, and on Facebook. We welcome visitors as well! Make an appointment by email: greenhousejp@gmail.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Deb Nam-Krane December 08, 2011 at 01:29 PM
As long as the leaves are off of the sidewalks before it snows, put my name down in support.
Matt December 08, 2011 at 05:51 PM
The difference is that we aren't in the forest... we're in a city. True, the greenest part of the city, but still. This being said, leaves are a problem when people don't care of them... biking, walking, shoveling, it's a mess. Is there an alternative that is also efficient to leaf blowers or is the only alternative to leave them and turn the city into a forest?
Dax December 09, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Well, you can mow the leaves (with a push mower) so that they're broken into tiny pieces. Those little pieces break down faster and don't blow around as much (or really at all, in my experience. We do rake some of them up and put them into a (controlled) pile to turn into mulch. In my last place we didn't do the lawn thing at all. We had river rock pathways among a whole bunch of beds. If you do it right, that's actually way lower maintenance than a grass lawn. I didn't grow up with lawns, though, so I'm not as attached to them as I find most Americans are. We didn't have enough rain (or government-subsidised irrigation) to keep grass going through dry season.
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