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Westchester Officials Suggest Pulverizing, Not Piling Leaves

Westchester County officials are encouraging homeowners to embrace mulch mowing to benefit municipalities and the environment.
Westchester County officials are encouraging homeowners to embrace mulch mowing to benefit municipalities and the environment. Photo Credit: Daily Voice File Photo

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With many Westchester County municipalities looking to trim every penny from their budgets as expenditures continue to rapidly rise, local officials are moving away from traditional leaf collection models and encouraging homeowners to try something more different, and environmentally friendly.

In the past, when autumn came and leaves rained down on local lawns, many homeowners had the option of bagging their leaves, having their contractors take care of them or raking the leaves onto a pile at property lines for Department of Public Works crews to collect on the municipalities’ dimes.

As an alternative, as part of the “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em ” initiative, elected officials around the county are encouraging homeowners to “mulch mow,” a practice that pulverizes the fallen leaves where they lay, allowing them to quickly decompose and spread nutrient in the soil, which improves its quality.

The mulch mowing technique has led to many municipalities to scale back their leaf collection programs to save money. This year, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees is contemplating a change to their plan, at a net savings of nearly $800,000 and the New Rochelle City Council voted to no longer pick up loose piles of lefts that are left curbside, saving the city more than $400,000 and improving safety on roadways.

“Changing habits is almost always difficult,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said about the change. “The City Council adopted this new policy for compelling reasons: improving road safety, reducing flooding, encouraging environmentally sound practices and saving tax dollars.”

With the financial and environmental benefits of eliminating leaf collection, many municipalities have given homeowners the choice to either rake and collect their own leaves in biodegradable bags that will then be picked up, or preferably, mulch mow.

In an effort to encourage homeowners and contractors to embrace mulch mowing, elected officials and local landscapers have hosted a series of demonstrations and forums throughout the county to explain how the nutrients extracted by mulch mowing benefit the soil and community as a whole.

Mulching blades can be purchased online and installed on most lawnmowers. Professional landscapers can operate their machines in a “mulching” configuration.

“Anyone who (mulch mows) will see a difference in two seasons. It’s easy and reduces the noise from leaf blowers, Tim Downey of Aesthetic Landscaping in Hastings-on-Hudson said at a demonstration . “There is no downside if done properly.”

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