Healthy Yards

The village of Irvington strongly encourages its residents and landscapers who work in the village to adopt Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (LELE) practices on their property, providing a chemical-free landscape and enabling a mix of habitats for overwintering fauna. LELE encourages native plantings in place of the traditional suburban mono-cultural lawn "deserts" and the use of electric-powered battery yard tools.

Irvington has regulations limiting the use of gas powered leaf blowers. To learn more, see our Yard Waste page here.

Download our overview of sustainable landscaping practices here

Pesticides

Insects are critical to the food chain, and 40% of species are in decline with a third endangered. Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are designed to kill and oft en do so indiscriminately, resulting in devastating impacts on the entire ecosystem. The rampant use of pesticides in the USA has resulted in precious water- shed and groundwater contamination. For these reasons, they are banned from school and village properties. As of January 2023, the DEC is restricting use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Research has shown connections between pesticide exposure and abnormal development in humans. Growing children are particularly at risk. Be sure to talk to your landscape company to stop pesticide use and avoid lawn chemicals and seeds treated with chemical fertilizers. 

Learn more at drugwatch.com/roundup/glyphosate

Love 'Em and Leave 'Em

Fallen leaves, as an additional physical layer of organic materials above ground, provide food, shelter, and nesting or bedding materials to a variety of wildlife, as well as overwintering protection for a number of insects, all of which work together to contribute to a healthy yard.

Since 2013, Greenburgh Nature Center and Westchester County Waste Management Department have supported a county-wide program promoting on-site leaf/grass mulching, including “how to” trainings in various municipalities and on-site landscaper consultations. Visit LELENY.org for extensive resources, including a toolkit and video demos.  Find LELE on facebook here. See extensive leaf mulching tips below.

Find additional extensive resources for home owners and landscapers at Healthyyards.org 

Healthy Yards has compiled this list of Sustainable Landscapers

Native Landscaping

Whether you have a big yard and don't use it all for activities, or if you have a small yard with only foundation beds, consider planting an area of native grasses, perennials, shrubs, and/or trees. Using native plant species reduces the need for watering, mowing, and pesticide use. It also creates a beautiful yard that attracts more birds and butterflies by providing shelter and natural food sources. One great way is to join the Irvington Pollinator Pathway movement its to register your home at pollinator-pathway.org. And see our Pollintor Pathway page here.

The Perfect Earth Project is another great resource for maintaining health yards. 

To determine if the pesticides your landscaper is using are legal, go to https://health.westchestergov.com/images/stories/PDF/nnlflyer.pdf

Leaf Mulching

Watch our quick leaf mulching guidance videos. Find landscaper training videos on our YouTube channel here.  

Mulching (shredding) in-place is the best solution. It is easy to learn, easy to implement, gets great “green” points, and best yet: actually saves time & money!

As an example of budget figures (and thus a source of possible tax savings), a given village averages $30k dumping fees each fall for vacuuming up and carting leaves away upstate. Combined with labor costs, equipment maintenance, gas, etc., the seasonal costs are often well over $100k for the village. Removing leaves from our waste stream potentially eliminates this cost, resulting in reduced taxes. Most other villages and towns in our region would probably show similar costs and potential savings.

Mulched leaves are a low cost way to naturally fertilize your lawn and to fertilize and mulch your landscape beds. Benefits of applying leaf mulch to your garden include:

It’s as simple as shredding your leaves into smaller pieces. You can shred ‘em using a lawn mower (preferably a mulching mower or mower with a low cost mulching attachment), a leaf shredder, a leaf blower / vacuum shredder, or even a DYI setup using a weed whacker inside a trash can. Almost like magic, leaf volume when shredded can be reduced up to 10:1.

The trick is to shred ‘em “in place” (minimize handling) where ever possible. This means to shred ‘em directly on your lawn into fine pieces. These will break down over the winter and fertilize your grass as well as help to prevent excessive turf compaction. On your driveway, rake into piles and shred ‘em, then collect the fine mulch and apply it to your garden beds 2"- 3" thick like you would any other mulch.

Leaves in your wooded areas? Simply leave ‘em alone and let ‘em decompose naturally. After all, your trees have evolved to recycle their leaves, thereby fertilizing themselves and helping to maintain the vigor of their root zones.

The one “problem” area may be your landscape garden beds. Un-shredded leaves can be heavy and damp (especially Oak and Sycamore) and may lead to perennial crown rot in some species. Carefully pull, rake or blow off the leaves, shred, and reapply the fluffy mulch back onto the beds.

But wait! There’s more: You’ve probably heard about the “green movement” to compost your leaves and grass clippings so as to produce rich compost for your Victory Garden. And while composting is fairly easy to do, there are a few “tricks of the trade” to follow so as to ensure that your pile does not go sour (termed going “anaerobic”) and produces compost. The key is to balance the amount of “green” (grass clippings) and “brown” (fall leaves) placed onto the pile. The pile ideally should be 3’x3’x3’ in size and also needs to be periodically watered and turned over. In anywhere from 6 months to a year (sooner when using a rotating compost machine), your pile will convert itself into a rich black compost mulch full of plant nutrients and beneficial microbes, mycorrhizae, and minerals. Your tomatoes will love you for it.

Any excess leaves left over from your mulching, once chopped up, could be used in your compost pile, as well. (These serve as a “brown” layer in your compost recipe.) Shredded leaves in your pile undergo speeded-up decomposition. Of course, deadheaded or cut-back perennials can also be place on the pile, as well as vegetables, bread and fruits. (These all serve as a “green”.) But to avoid attracting unwanted varmints, food wastes should generally be avoided except by the more experienced composter.

But the reality is that for quite a few homeowners, composting is often too much effort or perhaps considered too messy to deal with. Mulching-in-place is simpler, faster and cleaner overall.

The one impediment for many homeowners to “going green” with their leaves is getting their landscape maintenance company on board. The typical mow & blow landscape grounds crews would never consider maintaining a compost pile on your property, no matter how beneficial. Nor would they think to mulch-in-place. They simply aren’t trained this way. Mow mow mow. Blow blow blow. Into the street. Your yard is left spotless and inert.

Everyone needs “re-training”, from homeowner to landscape crews to DPW staff. Watch for upcoming GPTF public education sessions on mulching-in-place. Perhaps you can help to organize and sponsor one in your village or town. For more information and to discuss sharing resources contact the GPTF at e-mail.

The sooner we start having everyone’s leaves “mulched-in-place” and/or composted on-site, the sooner we can start saving tax dollars AND benefit our shared environment by eliminating the senseless trucking of valuable leaf resources into another county or community. It’s a win-win situation. Save green by going green!

Leaf Mulching Tips Using a Mower