First Steps to Transitioning Away From Gas Leaf Blowers

Due to their loud noise, high level of air pollution with associated health impacts, and damage to the environment, Bedford is joining many other municipalities around the nation transitioning away from gas leaf blower use.

Gas leaf blowers are prohibited year-round throughout the Town of Bedford except during the following clean-up seasons:

                                                                          SPRING                                           FALL

In the year 2022:                                   April 1 – May 15                      October 1 – December 15

In the year 2023 :                                  April 1 – April 30                     October 15 – December 15

In the year 2024 and thereafter:        April 15 – April 30                  November 7 – November 21

 

Many municipalities are instituting restrictions on gas leaf blowers – see the list of towns that have passed legislation in Westchester County, NY, here.

Why is this happening?  

  • Leaf blower are extremely noisy, destroying neighborhood peace
  • There are many health hazards associated with gas leaf blower use
  • Leaf blowers damage gardens and landscapes, destroying pollinator and bird habitat
  • Two-stroke engines are very inefficient and cause toxic emissions contributing to climate change

How to landscape without gas leaf blowers

The notion that gas leaf blowers – or any leaf blower – is essential to good landscaping is misguided. In fact, it is the opposite – leaf blowers are harmful to landscapes because they remove top soil and damage insect and bird habitat.

They do have their uses in the landscape and ideally should only be used on hardscapes, such as driveways, patios, paths, and decks.

That said, we recognize that many people like to use leaf blowers, so here are some tips to transition away from gas leaf blowers. 

Although there is no restriction on the use of electric leaf blowers, it is recommended that you switch to more eco-friendly lawn practices. As rebates and incentives become available we will distribute them to those adhering to the new regulation. These tips developed by Leave Leaves Alone will help you make a successful transition to more earth-friendly practices.

To modify your landscaping methods you can:

This move will also be beneficial to you. Landscapers who transition to battery-powered tools all report a more pleasant, comfortable work experience.

If you are a landscaping professional, remember that your client considers you an expert in your field. He/she will take advice from you. Remind your client that there are restrictions in place in their community and that you will be having to change the way you work.

Ways To Adopt Earth-Friendly Methods

A clean yard is not always a healthy yard.

  • Use blowers only on hardscapes: patios, driveways, paths, etc.
  • Leave the leaves on ground cover, like pachysandra, and around shrubs and tree roots. They protect the plants. Rake the leaves around the base of the plant so they look neat. The leaves will decompose there and enrich the soil. Explain this to your client. They will not damage the plant if the leaves are sitting on top of the pachysandra, for example. Over the winter they will fall to the root level. If the client would prefer not to see the leaves, simply shake the plants so that the leaves fall below the living plant leaves and rest by the roots.
  • When using electric blowers try not to use high speed (boost), which uses the battery faster.
  • Try to work when the leaves are dry.
  • Very often it is more time efficient to use a broom or a rake than a blower. Add them to your truck.
  • Leave leaves on perennial flower beds. They protect the plants in winter and they will decompose there and enrich the soil. Do not cut back the perennials in the fall. They provide important winter cover for pollinators and birds. In the spring cut back the perennials to about 12 inches off the ground. This is a horticultural best practice. The new growth will quickly cover the old stalks.
  • It is recommended to not aggressively rake the lawn as it can create bare spots and encourages weed seeds (especially Japanese stilt grass seeds) to sprout.
  • Mulch-mow grass and leaves into the lawn. This means mowing over the leaves. You may need to mow over them more than once to ensure the bits of leaves are chopped into small pieces: they will fall between the grass blades and decompose. For videos click here.
  • It’s recommended not to cute the grass lower than 4” to maintain a healthy lawn. Any shorter and you could damage the lawn, inviting pests and make the grass susceptible to drought. Leave grass clippings on the lawn: they will decompose and enrich the soil naturally. If clippings are thick on the lawn you may need to disburse them so they do not smother the grass.
  • Sometimes it’s more efficient to use a broom (on a hard surface) or a rake (on a lawn). Use a rake to distribute any grass clippings piled on the cut lawn.
  • You could offer to compost any large piles of leaves on your client’s property. Learn about composting here and offer it as an extra service for your client. You can also compost grass clippings if your client insists on the grass clippings being removed from their lawn.
  • You could a leaf sweeper instead of a blower. See these videos on ways to manage leaves without blowers.
  • Offer to build perennial beds for native plants, replacing some of the lawn. This will give you another chargeable item, which you can maintain each week when you visit (or every two weeks) and means less lawn to mow and clear of leaves. To learn about this, click here.
  • It is recommended to not use fertilizer. This will just encourage growth and therefore more lawn mowing. Substitute mowing with other income-earning practices like composting, building and maintaining perennials, removing invasives, weeding.
  • On large properties, offer to mow paths in the long grass. This provides good pollinator habitat, involves less mowing and no need to remove leaves. You can maintain the area each week by monitoring for invasive plants and removing them. It is important to remove the clippings so that a meadow can develop. Compost the clippings.
  • If your client is reluctant to adopt mulch-mowing and some of these other practices in their front yards, suggest they test these methods out in the back yard.

Using Electric Tools

The American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) is the only organization in the United States that has fully examined the electric landscaping tool market, and offers consultations to help landscapers and municipalities successfully convert to electric. They also offer a comprehensive online course, in English and Spanish, with certification.

AGZA recommends these considerations when converting to electric tools, make sure you do the following:

  • Research the tool brand. See if you can set up a “Try Before You Buy” with the tool brand rep or dealer. Most manufacturers are making electric versions of all landscaping tools and the batteries that will work with all of the tools in their platform.
  • Store your electric tools in a dry location. Mount tools wherever possible. They will last longer that way.
  • Charge and store your batteries at moderate temps in a well-ventilated area. High temps and sub-zero cold could shorten the life of your battery.
  • If possible, avoid charging your batteries on fast charge: this shortens the life of the battery.
  • Opportunity Charging” Ask clients if you can charge your batteries on site, while working. It will not cost more than $1.00 on your electric bill to fully charge a typical battery.
  • Some landscapers have fitted their trucks with solar power to serve as a charging station. 
  • Some homeowners are purchasing batteries, or electric tools, for their landscapers to use on their property.

 Print out our information card to share

with your landscapers and neighbors.

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