Gardening on the Planet, Guest Rants

Here’s to No-Blow Gardens

Guest Rant by Evelyn Hadden

Let’s face it, the outdoors is getting noisier, and not in a good way. It used to be that a person could find calm, quiet places even in the city — be it a park, a secluded backyard, or a low-traffic residential street.

But that was before leafblowers.

I know, singling out one type of machine isn’t fair. Mowers and other powered landscaping tools contribute noise too, not to mention the booming bass of our car stereos, planes droning overhead, sirens and car alarms, and of course cell phone ring tones, which can and do interrupt the silence anytime, anywhere. Plus, there are just more people, and that’s going to continue (a rant for another time — watch our worldwide population grow here.

But back to leafblowers. Especially gas-powered ones. I mourn the abandonment of rakes and brooms in favor of small engines that has led to noisier, more polluted landscapes. I’m not alone. Leafblowers are already banned in some cities and are being considered for bans in others. (1)

Though there are some situations in which they may be the best tool for the job, in my opinion their widespread use should be curbed for the good of us all. Let’s break it down.

plants

A leafblower’s very reason for being is to remove fallen leaves. This isn’t always healthy for your plants. Though lawns cannot survive under a layer of leaves, other plants (especially trees and woodland plants) will thrive with an undisturbed layer of leaf litter, which protects roots, fosters soil life, and is decomposed into nutrients that feed the plants.

Hadden2

animals

Leafblowers interfere with animals’ ability to communicate with each other in order to find mates, hunt, and avoid predators. (2) Removing leaf litter destroys the habitat of many beneficial and beautiful insects. (3)

soil

Leafblowers blow away not just leaves but topsoil,  exposing the ground to further erosion and colonization by wind-blown weed seeds. Blasts of hot, dry air (and the removal of protective organic matter on top of the soil) destroy the top layer of soil microbial life, which is the most active in powering the soil food web. (4)

humans

Leafblowers threaten our hearing.  Operators (and anyone who happens to pass within 50 feet) who don’t wear ear protection risk hearing damage. (5)

They cause damage to our lungs (again, not just the operators of the machinery are affected), polluting the air and exacerbating allergies. The American Lung Association recommends avoiding gas-powered leafblowers for your health. (6)

This air pollution comes from the dust they stir up; particulate matter is a recognized pollutant on its own, and it also may contain pollens, animal feces, landscape chemicals, lead, mold spores, and other contaminants that are unhealthy for us to breathe.

Additional pollution comes from their exhaust fumes, spewing out carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons (CO, NOx, and HC) at levels greater than automobiles. (7)

Last but certainly not least, they shatter our peace. Exposure to noise can interrupt sleep, depress our immune systems, increase anxiety and hostility, lower our productivity, aggravate heart disease, cause gastrointestinal distress, increase birth defects, and reduce cognitive development in children. (8)

Supposedly, leafblowers make landscaping tasks easier. Experiments comparing them to rakes show that’s debatable (9). Even if it were true, is avoiding the rake or broom really worth the negative consequences?

Sweeping walkways and raking leaves can be healthy and pleasant outdoor activities that afford moderate exercise. This exercise is free and you can do it with the whole family. While you’re at it, you can breathe the fresh air (rather than wearing a mask), converse and listen to birds and crickets (rather than wearing ear protection), and generally glory in the natural beauty of your garden.

Though in some cases, a leafblower may be the only effective tool — say, removing fallen leaves from a cactus garden or grooming a gravel walkway in a public park — using a rake or broom to maintain a modest-sized home landscape is healthier for the plants and animals, more considerate of your neighbors, and healthier for them and you as well.

What do you think of leafblowers: friend or foe?

- – - – -

Notes:

(1)   Leafblowers have been illegal in LA for over a decade; video with Ed Begley Jr.

(2)   Urban noise has a negative effect on wildlife in general.

(3)   Meet some of the insects that overwinter in fallen leaves.

(4)   Travis Beck’s recent book Principles of Ecological Landscape Design explains how to support and nurture soil life (the key to healthy plants).

(5)   Leafblowers emit 65 to 75 decibels of noise at 50 feet, close to 100 decibels for the operator. Noise levels higher than 85 decibels carry a significant risk of hearing damage. A report sponsored by the World Health Organization recommends ambient outdoor noise levels of no more than 55 db.

(6)   Number 8 in the American Lung Association’s “Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Lungs” is foregoing leafblowers and other gas-powered landscaping tools.

(7)   Summary of the California EPA study of leafblower-caused air pollution.

(8)   Read about the various health risks of exposure to noise.  For much more detail about human health effects, download this 60-page PDF from the California Air and Resources Board.

(9)   The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water conducted tests pitting a grandma with a rake against a pro with a leafblower.   A landscaping company conducted its own test, which led it to choose rakes over leafblowers.

Posted by on March 21, 2013 at 6:55 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Guest Rants.
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57 Responses to “Here’s to No-Blow Gardens”

  1. Carol Hassell says:

    Right on! Spread the word far and wide — leafblowers are undesirable on so many levels, as you note.

  2. Evelyn as someone who has written books on less lawn, I am sure you are aware that lawns will never disappear. They can be smaller and less toxic and it is an educational process towards achieving that end.

    The same applies to leaf blowers. Your qualifications in this anti-leaf blower rant do attest to that. Yes they are overused and inappropriately used when a rake will do a better job. At the height of leaf season a rake and a tarp are much better and more effective than a blower.

    As for removing leaf litter from beds when it is better left in place for the health of the plants, animals and soil, well that happened before blowers became widespread and is just as likely to continue happening with a rake for the bare earth folks even if blowers are banned. Blowers are irrelevant to that mindset.

    I do landscape maintenance for a living and no amount of studying is going to convince me that a blower does not save time and physical energy in many cases. Even the link you give to the landscape company against blowers admits to still using an electric blower on their jobs.

    Simply put a blower is not a rake and should not be used as one. It is however a fine replacement for a vacuum. One posh estate where I work has upwards of 20,000 ft2 of decks, patios and walkways. The paved roadways must be close to half a mile. Sorry, I don’t care how much a blower bothers anyone. Gardy ain’t gonna sweep all that.

    Much like the desire for the perfect lawn, all clients want those hard surfaces kitchen floor clean. All the little bits of debris that land there are easily blown into lawns and beds where they will be added to the soil food web.

    The extremism of the “I hate leaf blowers” crowd only causes antagonism and defensive reactions. Much like you are sure to have learned in your less lawn initiative, education is a better tool.

    Leaf blowers are a useful tool that shouldn’t be overused, just like a lawn can be a useful negative space in an overall garden design to bring a garden to life.

    • Hi, Christopher. Thanks so much for this thoughtful response and for sharing your professional experiences. I agree that an extremist approach is neither realistic nor productive.

      If you have the time, I’d love to hear a little more about a couple of things you mentioned:

      I like how you describe the specific situations in which leaf blowers save you a lot of time and effort — clearing paved or other hardscape surfaces of debris. Do you think that having this new tool has raised our expectations for how clean these surfaces should be?

      It’s interesting that you say “a leaf blower is not a rake and should not be used as one.” Do that mean that you prefer to use a rake for clearing leaves off a lawn?

      Thanks again for contributing to the conversation.

    • greg draiss says:

      OMG I Agree with Christoper C NC
      The world must be coming to an end

      the TROLL

    • I HATE LEAF BLOWERS. Blow them up. NOW.

  3. Evelyn I have been doing landscape maintenance for 25 years. In that entire time the expectation has been that paved and hard surfaces should be completely free of dirt, dust, grass clippings and tiny bits of debris. Remember when people got ragged on for doing that with a hose?

    In most cases yes I prefer a rake over a blower for cleaning a lawn. Quantity and wetness are determining factors. The more leaves and the wetter the grass, the more likely a rake will be used. If it is just little remnants on dry grass and only a touch up is needed a blower is fine. This is after most of the leaves have been ground up with a mulching mower.

  4. Jennifer M says:

    Christopher, I also agree that this is not an “all or nothing” question. One distinction your comment raises regards the size of the property and the closeness of nearby residences. I personally think that using leaf blowers on larger properties and institutional grounds makes more sense than using them on tiny lots with houses close together, where neighbors and pedestrians are quite negatively impacted. Sweeping 20,000 feet is quite a different matter than sweeping a patch of sidewalk 30 feet long.

  5. Donna B. says:

    I am not keen on leaf blowers – but I understand the neccessity if it’s used PROPERLY. [warning; RANT AHEAD!]
    I do agree that in a larger landscaped area it’s more time-efficient than hiring four+ extra hands to tackle the job – but if we properly planted the areas rather than leaving it an expanse of green? Wouldn’t that make more sense?
    There’s a large commercial property I drive by everyday after work that’s probably about six+ acres of green lawn… The whole building has been empty for the past six years… yet, every summer almost everyday there is a team that goes in and mows the lawn and then leaf blows the grass clippings onto the highway.
    That… I don’t get.

    My Saturday weekend mornings are usually ruined by my front-door neighbor tending to his perfect green lawn; mowing, weed whacking, and spraying roundup on clover and dandelions. I am just trying to enjoy my cup of coffee on my porch listening to the hum of bee’s around me and enjoying my oasis. :D

    • Donna, I feel for you. Peace is hard to come by. That’s a big part of why I focus on less lawn. There are so many important reasons to convert those large, unused lawns to landscapes that perform ecological services and support plant and animal populations, not to mention requiring less work and fewer resources. If only preserving the quiet — and the natural sounds and smells — for all to enjoy could become part of our culture’s view about how to be a good neighbor!

  6. tara dillard says:

    Wealthy neighborhoods are the loudest. Yard crews, continual house renovation construction, delivery trucks, painting crews with their radios. Been working in them for decades.

    When I sit in my Conservatory I thank Providence, every time, for its peace-beauty-sounds of nature-and being in a working class neighborhood !!

    No grass for decades in my garden.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  7. Karin says:

    Leafblowers have been illegal in LA for over a decade. That’s a law that is completely not enforced here. It is pointless in making a law that is not going to be enforced. And it won’t be until the home owners insist that their “Mow and Blow” personnel do not use leaf blowers in their yards. And that won’t happen unless the homeowners stay and watch the “gardners” and refuse to pay them if they continue to use a blower.

  8. John says:

    Very good posting and some very thoughtful comments. I think it’s a pretty tough sell to expect a person trying run their own business to voluntarily give up a tool that makes them able to perform their job faster and more efficiently.

    Landscape maintenance and the “mow and blow” profession is one dominated by price. The average homeowner doesn’t care what method you use to attain the results, they just want it done fast and cheap. I don’t have a gardener, but if I ever did, I would certainly be explicit that I didn’t want leaf blowers used, and I would reasonably be prepared to pay an additional cost to use the more environmentally, physically demanding broom/rake.

  9. Jenn says:

    I live in a tightly packed, mixed use urban area. I can’t really say that my beloved city is in decline because its salad days were over a century ago, but many of the neighborhoods are wonderful places to live. As with many cities around the country, foreclosures and unemployment have caused a spike in random crimes of opportunity and desperation. My beautiful, modest, historically significant, neighborhood is no exception to this.

    Frankly, I don’t care how my neighbors keep their yards clean as long as they just do it. Nothing says, “Crims hang out here!” like overgrown and unkempt lots.

    A house next to me was abandoned for two years recently. I mowed and blowed my lot as well as that one in the sweltering 100 degree summer heat for two years just so that it wouldn’t become attractive to criminals. I double-dog-dare anyone to tell me that I should have been using a reel mower and a rake so as not to disturb the peace.

    I understand that many suburbanites have never had to think about lot maintenance from a “broken window” crime prevention perspective. All I ask is to consider what if your neighbors and local businesses didn’t care enough about their property to do anything at all.

    • Hi Jenn. You make a great point that people are using leaf blowers (or hiring crews that use them) in order to beautify their properties and be good citizens. I certainly wouldn’t want to paint them as villains.

      Part of our struggle in this day and age is that many of us have limited resources (time, money, water) to devote to maintaining demanding landscapes. Our idea of what is a welcoming, desirable landscape hasn’t yet shifted to accommodate those limited resources. Also it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the variety and seriousness of the environmental issues we confront, especially when if we are already overwhelmed by the fast pace and multiple demands of our own lives and the needs of our families.

      I do feel we need to adjust our landscapes to be more nature-friendly, and restricting the use of this tool is one way to make a big difference on several fronts (air pollution, noise levels, wildlife habitat). The simple choice to use a rake or broom instead, or choose to leave the leaves where they can contribute to a healthy landscape, gives a pretty nice payback.

      Thanks for being part of this conversation.

      • Jenn says:

        Hi Evelyn,

        Thank you for your kind and rational response to my own little rant. I should make it clear that I agree with much of what is being said here, both in the article and in the comments. I’ve made many changes in my lifestyle in the past few years to reduce my family’s impact on my surrounding – and the greater – environment. This includes gradually converting more of my lot from grass to garden.

        What rubs me the wrong way is the somewhat hubristic tone sometimes taken on by this site. I get that this is Garden Rant and sissies need not apply, but publishing two anti-leaf blower articles in a week when there are so many other noise pollution offenders seems condescending. I’m not a horticulturist, garden writer, or environmental professional of any kind, but I do care about the world around me. I read this site for intelligent thought on diverse gardening issues. Your article certainly qualifies as such. But the timing with which it was delivered made me feel defensive and unwelcome. That’s not a good thing.

        If Garden Rant’s goal was to provoke a much needed conversation about an important topic to which there are differing opinions they should have published an opposing viewpoint article first. Perhaps using a Point / Counterpoint format? Leaving us to hash it out in the comments section may be where things stand in the Facebook age, but this place is better than that.

        Jenn Hoyt
        Saint Louis, MO

        • Jenn, I appreciate your frustration. It’s interesting because I think the idea was to do a set of leaf blower posts to complement each other, but obviously it came off as pushy to you. Maybe the Rant Goddesses will take note.

  10. Niklas says:

    We have a rather large garden with around 2acres of lawn around trees and borders. Fall for us means raking – raking non stop. We use our tractor and a trailer to handle all the fallen leaves (mainly oak trees), but over three months we’re busy raking, filling up the large trailer and unloading it… I still enjoy raking (besides the back pain, but hey, we’re gardeners), but I wish raking wouldn’t take that much time… There’s so much else that needs to be done, but no time for it.

    • greg draiss says:

      Don’t worry the noise of your tractor makes up for the lack of blowers

      The TROLL

      • Niklas says:

        Well, I think the 15min, the tractor is running while leaving our yard doesn’t bother anybody, especially since all the neighbors are farmers with tractors double the size….and we still load the trailer while its standing somewhere… Tho, our neighbor uses a blower

  11. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    Every fall, as I rake my gravel driveway, I think about getting a battery powered or electric leaf vacuum. Raking gravel sucks. I wouldn’t use a gas powered blower if you paid me.

    Do battery powered (much less noisy and polluting) represent a reasonable compromise?

    • Jenn says:

      I think you’re on to something Deirdre! I would recommend the electric over the battery for two reasons:

      1) Rechargable battery tools almost never have enough power
      2) The batteries eventually wear out, need to be replaced, and are EXPENSIVE.

      I’ve invested in electric tools and heavy extension cords as the old tools die and the budget has allowed. So far, so good.

    • Hi, Deirdre. Electric leaf blowers do seem to be a compromise chosen by several of the landscapers I heard from when researching this article. They are not as powerful, it was noted, but you may not need the full power option anyway. They are quieter too, and less polluting.

  12. Pam/Digging says:

    I hear you, Evelyn, but I still unabashedly use an electric leaf blower in my garden. Only about 3 or 4 times a year, mind you. Yes, it’s noisy (I wear ear protection). Yes, it’s dusty. Yes, it saves a tremendous amount of time. I use it for blowing leaves out of my agave and yucca collection and to clean up my patios/paved areas after the big spring live-oak leaf drop (happening right now, in fact).

    You do make many excellent points, and surely most of us can get behind more moderate and careful use. Blowing without care can effectively strip your beds of mulch and even topsoil, leaving plants to struggle along in poor condition. I see this all the time in my design work. Blowing every single weekend for hours at a time can destroy the peace of a neighborhood. Gas-powered blowers pollute with fumes as well. Switching to electric or battery-operated helps. Reducing turf helps. Being tolerant of leaf litter helps. Using a rake for smaller jobs helps.

    Ultimately it comes down to cost, I imagine. While active home gardeners may be willing to rake, those who hire out their lawn care won’t be. And the expense of hiring a yard crew to rake would be much greater because of the increased labor.

  13. joann says:

    Ever tried to rake a moss garden without damaging the moss? Good luck! I haven’t tried a broom on it yet, but my guess it that it will pull up the moss as well. I’m willing to try, but if it doesn’t work, the 10 minutes of noise from my electric blower will continue. Sorry, but the moss garden stays!

    • Joann, I was wondering about moss. Do you know how the Japanese gardeners traditionally maintained it? I meant to research that but didn’t get around to it. (Though I’m guessing it was hours of manual raking or sweeping that was embraced as a form of meditation–definitely a different cultural paradigm there.) Anyway, I bet your moss garden is gorgeous.

      • skr says:

        I think monks with chopsticks is the traditional way to maintain a moss garden without a blower.

  14. Mr. Mows All the Time — who lives across the street and mows 3-4 times a week once it gets warm, green grass or no — uses his leaf blower after mowing. This is Nebraska. The winds are almost 30mph. Thos eclippings never stay on hard surfaces for more than a few minutes. But no. Leaf blower. Then edger. Shoot, I think he has late-night fantasies about his equipment. Every night after dinner in summer I go out to my garden to relax — for like 2 minutes before some jackaninny turns on a mower or blower. None of these people use their lawns, and the few that have garden beds or foundation plantings sure don’t have leaves in them (boxwood and roses do not equal leaf litter). Anywho. Amen.

  15. Jennifer M says:

    I guess I just have a rather naive question about why it is so widely accepted that one person will save time/money/effort by creating problems for other people. I suppose for many people it’s just not a big deal. Personally, I lose sleep, I lose time that I need to work at home, I have swept up after leaf blowers, and I hate when I have to ride through one of those clouds on a bike. (I’m in a city, btw; I can ride downtown in 20 minutes.) I know it’s not just me. In closely spaced neighborhoods, lots of people who are home during the day – whether they work at home, work a night shift and sleep during the day, are home with kids, are kids, are ill, retired, whatever – pay in one way or another. (I think they also pose health risks for the operators.) I’m not out to make anyone’s job harder, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge that there are costs to others, from noise and air pollution, and that those costs matter. I agree with all the comments about more mindful and moderate use; 10 minutes here or there, quieter models – sounds alright. But right now there’s a critical mass where it’s just kind of automatic and constant; how do we climb back from that?

    • gemma says:

      I love this comment: “why [is it] so widely accepted that one person will save time/money/effort by creating problems for other people”? In a neighborhood where I used to live, leaf blowers were raging all day, every day. For the most part, the garden crews spent more time in the yards than the busy (or vacationing) homeowners. One yard person spent 12 hours with the leaf blower every week. I’ve watched people blow-drying lawns: trying to push one leaf at a time on a wet lawn with a leaf blower! I freelanced and often had to leave to find a quiet place to work. To open another can of worms, I feel similarly about people who smoke and pollute my air.

      • Actually, Gemma, I think this issue has a lot of similarities to that of secondhand smoke. It’s a question of an individual’s rights, but also a question of health effects and negative consequences for other non-consenting individuals.

      • The two of you are now headed down a very slippery slope. The same arguments can be made about the cars you drive, the energy used to run your home and all your gadgets, the pollutions produced by all the products you buy from food to plastics, and the waste generated from all of that. The health effects and negative consequences for the non-consenting permeate the entire ecosystem. Yet it is widely accepted that you can do these things that wreak havoc on the planet for your own personal comfort. I suppose for many people it’s just not a big deal.

        But no, you want to rag on landscapers using leaf blowers and smokers who in the bigger picture of the burdens humans tax the planet with are a drop in the bucket. They are easy targets. The others are too big to mess with and might cause you some discomfort if you had to change your habits.

        • Christopher, I actually think about those issues a lot, as well as the consequences of continuing to eat meat. It’s a hard truth that our modern lifestyle degrades the environment rather than improving it, in general.

          However, I’m not ready to assume that people will continue to do “things that wreak havoc on the planet” if the consequences and options are brought to their attention. Discussions like this one might help us all (via a messy and protracted process) figure out a better way.

          It’s not that there aren’t other, more important lifestyle changes (or corporate, governmental, or broad cultural changes) we could make, but to me leaf blowers are a “low-hanging fruit” where we might see disproportionately positive results from something that could be an easy choice. Not for all of us—but maybe for some.

        • gemma says:

          It’s not a slippery slope. It’s looking at lose/lose situations and saying, why? Why work stupid? Why degrade your own health because you think you’re doing what the client wants? Why do things the way other people do them just because that’s what they do? Why enrich the corporations that are lying to everyone about the consequences of using their products (blowers, pesticides, cigarettes, meat, cars, the whole shebang)? Why not step back and, instead, figure out how to live sanely? People make lots of wrong assumptions when they try to do what they think other people want.

  16. Laura says:

    I’m sort of on the fence about this after reading every post.

    I don’t own a leaf blower. I have large old oaks and I live in the city, but the neighborhood looks like we’re in the country and the houses are far apart. I leave my leaves where they fall most of the time, and many of my neighbors do the same. However, I have one neighbor who does blow his leaves infrequently and when he does, sometimes it gets on my nerves. Still, since he doesn’t blow often and he never wakes me up, I just let it go.

    I’m sure I’d feel differently if we were all lived closer together.

  17. Anne Wareham says:

    This is all so very strange to someone from UK – but as I said elsewhere, it explains why someone shocked and astounded me by saying they wouldn’t buy my book because I mentioned using a leaf blower in it (for sucking up some hedge clippings). Uh??? I was totally bewildered.

    It must be the size of your gardens or a greater obsession with tidiness? I think people in uk must rake usually, though even that seems unnecessary to me (see second part of http://veddw.com/blog/what-not-to-do-in-your-garden-in-november/) The wind does the job and if it fails the lawnmower in the spring finishes it up.

    How did this get to be such an enormous thing? Not your objections – the use of the blowers to the point that anyone would ban them!?? Where do people blow leaves to? If they don’t end up usefully on the borders where do they go? Isn’t that a major issue???

    I love these differences between us though and love hearing about them on the web. Who would ever have guessed?!! XXXX

    • Sandy in TX says:

      If leaves “don’t end up usefully in the borders,” for some reason I don’t understand after 50 years of watching it, in many U.S. suburbs a lot of them get bagged up for the trash collector, and hauled to the dump.
      That is decreasing lately . . . thanks to increased environmental awareness and decreased convenient space for landfills, many towns and cities (and more all the time) are now collecting leaves/grass clippings separately from garbage/waste, composting them at a city facility, and giving the compost back to local gardeners, or in some cases selling it for enough to cover the cost of collecting it and turning the piles.

  18. Tibs says:

    You anti blower folks are approaching this problem from the wrong angle. No one wants to be told you are stupid wrong selfish. Tell em instead the wonderful exersize raking is :” in just one season of raking I lost 20 pounds and toned and slimmed my arms!

  19. Sandra Knauf says:

    Dear Troll – Begley’s film is pro-electric blowers.

    The problem is pollution, noise, etc., with gas blowers.

    That said, even raking the leaves disrupts the cycle of many insects (as has been noted). A friend told me years ago that leaf cover is an excellent place for birds to find insect food in the fall/winter, and I think of that every year.

    Thanks for posting this – gas blowers are awful and unnecessary.

  20. stone says:

    Hate those leaf blowers… Leaves belong where God put them.
    There is nothing prettier or more restful than a pristine forest floor…

    Isn’t the yard considered a place for relaxation? Why mar the pleasure with all the noise?

    I can see where having leaves underfoot while grilling could be a bad thing… But, God created a system that should be self-maintaining…

    Those swaths of turf are unnatural… God’s lawn has flowers and critters… And no noisy leaf blowers…

  21. Dave says:

    I used to run the grounds crew for a gorgeous research facility in southern California. We had some of the best scientific minds in the world, we had to do a lot of things just so because of environmental concerns, and yet the lawn areas had to be a perfect carpet and everything had to be blown perfectly clean. One week when my helper was on vacation I decided to try dialing it back and blowing less, raking more. You would have thought I was running around naked in the courtyard, painting phalluses on the lab windows with goat’s blood the way the phones started ringing in the facilities office.

    My point being, when you set your crosshairs on the guys running the blowers (I’m ignoring weekend warriors) for a living, who are simply trying to fulfill the client/boss expectations, you’re being pretty unfair. The workers are either going to be expected to work longer hours for the same pay or they’re going to get screamed at. Constantly. Change the clients’ expectations of what constitutes a “clean” yard or public space. That’s our job as designers, and your job as garden bloggers and educators.

    Both the blower debate and the anti-lawn debate have elements of classism in them, and that bugs me.

    • gemma says:

      So funny! Did the callers say why they objected to the raking? Too much microscopic debris? I’m shocked that they even noticed!

      At the place where the blower was running 12 hours, it stopped when the homeowner happened to be home one day and was trying to make some phone calls. It got dialed back to half or less — still excessive, but some respite.

      About the classism: I observed that the less comfortable with English the neighbors’ yard crews were, the less likely they were to wear any kind of protection (ears, lungs, eyes, etc.) when blowing, mowing, or spraying. It was up to them to know that they had to protect themselves and to buy the appropriate equipment. Their employers didn’t know and didn’t care. Or maybe it was like kids and bike helmets: if only a few of them wear protective gear, they get teased by everyone else. I don’t know.

      • Dave says:

        gemma, I never saw such a group of spoiled babies as those scientists. I had one day when my helper was out and I needed to prune the lime grove. Since I had no help I piled the branches neatly in the corner and went to clock out, figuring I’d grab them first thing in the morning. Someone must have called to complain the second I left because I wasn’t even back at the shop when my pager (dating myself?) went off and I had to stay late to clean up.

        As to the workers and use of PPEs, using them is a tradeoff. You know you *should* use them but on a hot day they’re really uncomfortable, and they can make it hard to see what you’re doing… there are lots of reasons (none of them good) that we all put ourselves in harm’s way the second the boss turned his back. Especially when we were in our indestructible early 20s.

        I’m sure in many cases, the guys flat out aren’t given the protection, but there are also likely instances where they’re just working dumb. It’s unfortunate but hard to fix.

    • Jennifer M says:

      This makes me think of those cards one finds in hotels now, explaining that they are trying to save resources and offering customers the option of reusing their sheets and towels for more than one day. What if businesses (or departments) providing yard services offered something similar – perhaps both educating/changing expectations and offering a choice of kinds of service. (If they don’t already?)

  22. Dree says:

    Yes, leaf blowers (the gas ones) have been illegal in LA for years. But that law is not enforced in any way, shape, or form. It is a total joke, actually. Every single mow-and-blow gardener uses one. There’s a reason they call them “mow and blow”.

  23. Foe. As a retired guerrilla yardworker I attest to the superiority of the rake over the gasoline-powered monster, for all the reasons listed in the post and comments.

    In addition, the rake is a simple, age-old tool every G.Y. can comprehend. Working with the rake, his muscles register his actions and their consequences. An extension of his body, the rake connects him to himself and the planet as he alters both for the better. It allows him to recognize himself in the results of his work.

  24. Troy says:

    I prefer a rake as well- it takes more effort, but for me that’s half the fun of keeping up a lawn and garden! I see it as something to do, not only something to look at.

  25. Mary Douglas says:

    Ban on leafblowers? Point me there! My neighbor uses one to move dirt around his property.

  26. Dan says:

    Nothing kills garden ambiance like the sound of a leaf blower…Uggh!

  27. Paul says:

    Leave the leaves along. Are we that lazy we have to remove leaves with a leaf blower? Is this suppose to save us time and money? What about the benefits, it provides nutrient for healthy soil, makes plants healthier from the roots to the stems, leaves and flowers.

  28. I just can’t stand it! I’m still using my rake and my muscles. A good workout!

    Rose

  29. I agree with the reasons we should ban leaf blowers. The noise alone is deafening especially on a weekend when the family is outdoors trying to enjoy some peace and quiet. Goodbye, relaxed feeling. The added benefit of retaining some natural ground coverage provided by leaves is even more reason to consider the rake if needed.

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