If there is one job we carry out as gardeners that creates as much controversy as any, its clearing autumn leaves with petrol leaf blowers; “Why bother, they are only falling down again”, “please stop making that horrible noise”, “cant you tidy them up quietly with a rake and a broom”, “its a futile task”. There’s no escaping the fact that we are burning fossil fuels to remove a biodegradable resource, a rich habitat in itself and part of the nutrient cycling in diverse ecosystems. There is a growing call for a ban on these machines, as is already the case in some American states. Fuel‑powered leaf blowers are one item that would be prohibited in European states under the EU Outdoor Noise Directive. Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the environmental impact of estate gardening is problematic. I must admit to being conflicted over this as the early days of my gardening career involved full days with a rake, a builders bag and a wheelbarrow.
I do use the quieter, environmentally less impactful, (hugely expensive!) Pellenc battery system for hedge cutting and in time will add the battery powered leaf blower to the kit. But another 2K for the Pellenc leaf blower kit isn’t possible financially for routine garden maintenance teams, unless we charge a lot more for our services. Now there’s a thought…. Added to the equipment costs, the problem with large estate gardening is the run-time of the battery leaf blowers as they need to generate alot of power. However, the rate at which battery powered equipment is replacing petrol driven machines is a sea-change in the industry, and is without a doubt, the future. Climate change pun intended.
So why clear leaves? Gardening for wildlife, a move to be less controlling over nature, encouraging birds, bugs and berries is definitely the way forward and is important for the team at Edwards Garden Design. However, gardening is about intervention, about designing a space where form follows function, whether that function is solely aesthetic, or the most beautiful compost bin. The intervention with regard to leaves is not just tidying up leaves for the sake of it, it’s about maintaining lawns or grasslands as grasslands, and paths & drives as paths & drives. In woodland settings where grass is not the typical ground cover, we let leaves be. Grasslands and lawns, we clear leaves up. Grassland’s support their own unique flora and fauna and that is our goal; to maintain the quality and character of these particular habitats.
Even the simplest subject you can delve into with utmost scrutiny and reasoning. It really annoys my colleagues.