The summer we waited for so long has arrived and the warm, sunny days are luscious. Singing birds, breezes whispering through new leaves and the buzzing of hard working bees are even more enjoyable after the interminable winter. But as I work in the garden, all of this loveliness is accompanied by the tortuous sound of leaf blowers—all day without stop! And sometimes it seems that the blowing is happening on one lawn all day with others joining for shorter bursts from adjoining lawns. When I pass through the cloud of the residue of the blowers’ work being deposited onto the street, I am incredulous at this sloppy behavior!
I admit to having a very small blower/vacuum that I use to vacuum leaves for large vinca beds and to “poof” away any residue of potting soil left after the tarp I surround each pot with when I plant is removed. I take deliberate steps to avoid using even this small blower. I even use a broom!
Aside from the invasive sound, there are some additional reasons blowers are, in fact, not good, or, in my opinion, dangerous. Pollution from a blower at full force for half an hour (and have you ever seen one used other than at full force?) is the same as 40 cars idling on your lawn for one hour. Really, I did research to learn this. These pollutants include carbon monoxide, heavy metals, nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons. Also, that full-force blower emits 75 decibels of noise.
They blow five pounds of particulates per hour into the air in a concentrated stream at 200 miles per hour which can be any or all of the following: top soil, dust, salt, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fecal matter, fungicides and mold and fungus spores. These all land back on the grass, plants and trees, the lawn furniture, your house, your car and, let’s just say it, everywhere. Unless, of course, people and pets have inhaled them. The leaves and grass are no longer visible. Maybe some are in the street or under shrubs where they are not seen but the small particles are everywhere.
Blowers employed to clean garden beds leave the plants growing on hills between the valleys made when the spoil is blown away, which causes weed seeds in underlying layers of soil to be exposed to sun. (We want weed seeds left under layers of soil so they don’t grow.) They blow away: insects (including beneficials), pollen, tender leaves from plants and even flowers. Mulch and compost are useless in these beds, and any fertilizer that might have been laid on the ground is also blown up into the air.
When I began gardening 20 years ago, we did not use blowers. Unwanted plant material, including leaves, was raked, picked up by hand and taken away, and everyone thought the property looked great. And now we blow every bit of loose plant material from a property with the resultant problems and then put down mulch in some of the places we have just blown.
This is not one of those “it was better in the old days” rants. I think we use and accept the necessity of blowers and the “cleanness” they provide because we have blowers. Do our lawns and gardens really need to look like the rug after it has been vacuumed?
Proponents say that doing the job without blowers will cost more. It might, but our environment will be healthier for humans, our lawns and gardens—and our ears!
Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067. jeanellemyersfinegardening.com