This column was written by Bronxville Mayor Mary C. Marvin.
The Village Green Committee, one of our most dedicated and active Village organizations, is up and running this fall with their campaign called “Love’em and Leave’em” or LELE which encourages Villagers to mulch fall leaves in place on lawns.
The program, initiated in the Village of Irvington, is an effort to change habits and realize that our fall ritual of disposing leaves curbside is actually wasteful, expensive and unnecessary. There are multiple advantages to simply mowing the leaves back into the lawn.
- There is a significant cost savings to the Village for fall leaf collection and disposal. As example, Irvington has calculated their costs associated with leaf removal and Bronxville’s expenditures are much the same. They spend $30K in dumping fees alone for vacuuming up and carting leaves away Upstate. Combined with labor costs, equipment maintenance and gas, the seasonal costs often top $100K. This does not even include the cost of repairing clogged drains as rain sends leaves directly into the storm sewer system.
- Drains clogged with leaves also increase the risk of localized flooding.
- There is significantly less noise generated from leaf blowers as well as fuel savings in the cost of their operation. Leaf blowers also systematically remove the top layer of soil, leaving a yard pristine but unhealthy.
- Mulched leaves are a low cost way to naturally fertilize one’s lawn and landscape beds. Mulched leaves increase the water holding capacity of soil, especially useful for absorbing rainwater run-off. Mulch increases the nutrients in the soil as well as the biological activity of earthworms, microbes and other beneficial organisms. Leaf mulch is more nutritious and safer than commercial products. Most commercial mulch is actually the by-product of dead trees which have often died from diseases.
- Mulch as a natural fertilizer eliminates the need for commercial products which can prove dangerous to pets and the purity of our water systems.
- When the piles of leaves on the streets begin to decay, harmful phosphates and nitrogen are released eventually ending up in our sewer system and ultimately the Bronx River.
- These same leaf piles are also a significant traffic hazard as they are often placed in narrow roadways or disperse creating a slippery road surface.
The Village Green Committee held a seminar for landscaping companies who do work around the Village to educate them on the process and alert them to the Village plan. Many of them already own the relatively low cost mulching blade and retrofit kit needed to do mulching this fall. If you work on your own lawn, most relatively new mowers come as “mulching” by default while others can be converted by purchase of a mulching blade.
The process is actually easy and a time and cost saver for gardeners as well as the Village.
Running the mower slowly over dry leaves will produce leaf particles the size of moth flakes that easily blend back into the lawn surface.
The Village employed the process last year and Village Hall lawn has never looked better. I invite you to come by and inspect. The Bronxville School has enthusiastically joined us in our LELE campaign and will be mulching in place on school property. Even if one out of ten residents joins our program this year, taxpayers will save upwards of $10,000.
Our Green Committee is planning a “Take Back Day” on Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at which time there will be a demonstration of the mulching in place process on the Village Hall lawn. On that same day, with the assistance of the Bronxville School’s Environmental Club, Palumbo Place will be closed off and various stations set up for recycling products including electronic waste.
If you choose not to join the “Love’em and Leave’em” initiative, leaves must remain on private property near curb’s edge so our vacuum truck can easily collect them. Yard waste such as branches or shrub trimmings cannot be comingled with the leaves as they will clog the leaf truck. They should be placed curbside in biodegradable bags.
Leaf season begins on Oct. 22 and ends Dec. 19, weather permitting. Crews circle the Village as often as possible in an effort to keep the leaves from being a driving hazard or from entering our storm sewer system. Our DPW staff will be at your home at a minimum four times during the season.
As is evident, leaf pickup is labor intensive, time consuming and costly. The mulch in place method not only makes sense on many levels of community stewardship, it truly makes “cents” as a savings to taxpayers.