Nature Notes 7 – Leaves and snow

Welcome to EMSWCD’s Nature Notes series! Nature Notes shares small moments and interesting observations from our property, as well as related natural history tidbits, on a weekly to monthly basis.

November 30th, 2018

Natural Leaf and Snow Management

Tempted to pull out that leaf-blower for one last fall clean-up? Please consider raking instead. Not only are leaf blowers noisy, they are also very bad for the environment and human health.

Did you know…

  • Two-stroke engines emit hundreds of times more air pollution than cars. This pollution contributes to global warming, smog and acid rain.
  • Air pollution also raises risks of cancer, heart disease and asthma, especially in children.
  • The forced hot air damages plants and soil organisms, and compacts soil which makes plants more vulnerable to summer drought.
  • Electric leaf blowers create less air pollution and are somewhat quieter, but raking is still a better alternative.

leaves with beads of water

Leaf cover is beneficial for the soil and also provides habitat for many pollinators and beneficial insects – leave those leaves!

What about snow and ice?

Snow-blowers have some of the same noise and air pollution problems that leaf-blowers do. Here are some lower-impact ways to handle snow on paths, sidewalks and storm drains.

  • Avoid chemical de-icers whenever possible. These contain salts which corrode cars, roads, and bridges, and are harmful to plants, aquatic organisms, or both.
  • Keep your storm drains clear of debris, shovel early and often to prevent build-up, and use sand, gravel, or non-clumping kitty litter for traction.
  • Baking soda helps snow melt faster, and is much less toxic than chemical de-icers.
  • Chop up any ice that does accumulate with an ice chopper or garden edger.
  • If you must use a chemical de-icer, choose one labeled “pet-friendly” or that has magnesium salts, and apply sparingly just before or as the snow or sleet starts.
the EMSWCD yard covered in snow in 2017

Snow actually helps insulate plant roots from cold air and wind. A broom or rake works well if you need to knock it off branches.

Learn about winter gardening and why to leave those leaves in Nature Notes 6!