Beyond LELE - Expanding Climate Smart Yard Care Practices

LELE yard sign
New! 2019 edition of yard sign available in LELE Toolkit

Since the 2012 introduction and gradual adoption of Love 'Em and Leave 'Em yard care practices, a greater awareness of the environmental impacts of landscape practices has developing among residents of our towns and villages - especially a growing desire to locally address impacts of climate change on flora and fauna.

A 'climate smart' approach to lawn care, for example, supports and encourages using the full range of leaf management techniques as outlined within this site:
  • Rake whole leaves into wooded margins of yard (allowing important insects and small creatures a warm spot to overwinter).
  • Rake some leaves and branches into a scrub pile (providing winter cover for birds and small animals).
  • Mulch mow remaining leaves on the lawn (leaving in place for "free" fertilization).
  • Mulch mow leaves on hardscape, then use as mulch on landscape beds.

These practices provide a chemical-free enhancement of your landscape, as well as providing a mix of habitats for overwintering of fauna. In addition, as a homeowner, you can begin planting a mix of native plants in conjunction with thoughtful reduction of your mono-cultural "desert" of lawn areas.

Finally, for the health of the environment and children as well as ourselves, please adopt battery-operated electric yard tools such as leaf blower, mulching lawn mower, weed whacker, hedge trimmer. If you use professional landscapers for your lawn care, please update your annual contract to require both LELE practices and use of emission-free battery-electric yard tools.

Here are some additional articles and videos that might be of interest:

Put down that rake and leave your leaves in place! Kim Eierman joins the Garden Conservancy to explore the many benefits of leaving leaves alone, especially in regards to overwintering insects and animals.
Watch video on YouTube.

Learn more about groups supporting the Pollinator Pathway Project, including links to local organizations and towns/villages. Read an earlier newsletter here. 

From Save The Sound organization comes a short, but great intro to LELE.
Leaves... nuisance or benefit? It's all in how you approach it.

Fall Cleanup - Do Bee Don't Bee list



Leaf Mulching Demos / Workshops


Public Leaf Mow and Mulch Demonstration

Village of Mamaroneck

Saturday, November 16, 2019

10:00 AM


For event details, please refer to our 2019 EVENTS listing.


Mamaroneck Joins Larchmont to Promote "Healthy Yard" Campaign

The Town of Mamaroneck is promoting their “Healthy Yard” campaign which is a tri-municipal program (see note below) to encourage residents not to use pesticides and herbicides.  Residents take a pledge and the town delivers a small, pretty yard sign to their home.  The idea is to get the word out so residents see a lot less of the yellow, pesticide signs and more of these!  Since announced, over 140 residents have taken the pledge and proudly display a healthy yard sign in their garden or yard. For more information please go to

The “Healthy Yards” program started in Rye.  The Town of Mamaroneck’s environmental committee, the Sustainability Collaborative, learned about it and wanted to initiate the program as well.  They asked the Villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck if they wanted to join in and a Tri-municipal Healthy Yard program was born.  Read the press release.

Using Native Plants & Why You Want To

Photo Credit: Dave Cronin

Smarter Living

Your lawn has an environmental impact (NYTimes article - "One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Your Lawn"). To reduce it, try low-maintenance ground cover, like clover, creeping thyme or native plants (link to NWF's Native Plant Finder)— but take care to avoid invasive ones. Whatever you plant, avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Fertilize and aerate the soil with mulched leaves instead.

What is a Pollinator Pathway?

A pollinator pathway is an ecological and social project with the goal to connect existing isolated green spaces and create a more hospitable environment for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Pollinator pathways are pesticide-free corridors of public and private properties that provide native plant habitat and nutrition for pollinators. The first pollinator pathway was created in Seattle, founded by the artist and designer Sarah Bergmann. Today, the Pollinator Pathways, Pollinator Parkways, Bee Cities and other similar pollinator programs, have become a successful way of introducing homeowners to the conservation potential of their backyards, utilizing native plants and a "3-tiered" approach to landscape design.

Read more about the Pollinator Pathways project.

See a list of Westchester Towns and Villages who sponsor a Pollinator Pathway program.

Native Plant Lists

Try an online search of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Native Plant Database.

Download the New England Wildflower Society’s (recently renamed the Native Plant Trust) Plant Finder List for EPA Level III Ecoregion 59, Northeastern Coastal Zone. (.pdf)

Download the Pollinator Partnership’s Ecoregion Guide for Bailey Ecoregion 221, Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic). (.pdf)

Or go to this page by Pollinator Partnership ( which has a wide selection of Ecoregional plantings guides searchable by your zipcode. (.pdf files)

Pollinator larvae are an important food source for birds

Important sustainable landscaping reference: 'Bringing Nature Home'

Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology Doug Tallamy spoke recently in Bedford to a packed house, explaining how ecosystems depends on the availability of nutrient-rich larvae, like caterpillars. To attract these larvae we need to fill our landscapes with native plants and keystone species, like the oak and the black cherry.

Here are his 'Top 10' recommendations to help create a sustainable landscape:
  • Cut your lawn area in half
  • Avoid senseless / frequent mowing
  • Remove invasive plant species from your property
  • Use 'keystone' plants (see Native Plant Finder:
  • Build a 'multi-tiered' landscape layered with plants
  • Put motion sensors on your security lights (keep yard dark at night)
  • Eliminate mosquito spraying (hint: to control them naturally, use a bucket filled with water, add hay, wait two days for mosquitos to lay eggs then add mosquito dunks)
  • Minimize insecticide / pesticide use
  • Minimize use of chemical fertilizers
  • Join home owners association or local community boards and change from within

One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Your Lawn

New York Times logo

By Ronda Kaysen and Henry Fountain

In a recent (March 6, 2019) newsletter, The New York Times climate team included another story about small things that can be done by individuals to help protect our soils and local habitat, and thus help to mitigate climate change impacts:

One thing you can do: Leave some leaves

New York Times logo

By John Schwartz

In a recent (Nov. 21, 2018) newsletter, The New York Times climate team included a story about small things that can be done by individuals to help protect our soils and local habitat, and thus help to mitigate climate change impacts:

Drop That Rake and Green Your Leaves

In the Nyack News & Views online paper, Susan Hellauer writes in her Oct 29, 2016 Sustainable Saturday column about the LELE initiative in Nyack.

"In the old days we set them on fire. After that, we drove them away. This time we’re going to chop them into pieces and leave them lying on the lawn.

Home defense for a zombie apocalypse? Nope. Just eco-common sense for your autumn leaves.

Now that we’re used to sweeping, raking, blowing or dragging our autumn leaf quota to the edge of the gutter (not into the gutter, thanks), where big noisy diesel trucks suck them up and ride them to the county compost pile . . . here comes a better way."

Read the full article -> Sustainable Saturday: Drop That Rake and Green Your Leaves

In 2015, Nyack Village (a Climate Smart Community) passed a resolution to promote the LELE mulch-in-place approach to handling fall leaves.

Rethinking Leaves and the'Green Desert'

Kim Eierman of EcoBeneficial discusses the ecological benefits of leaves in our yards. Simple changes in our landscapes such as reduction of lawn area and use of a layered plantings full of native species, as well as adjustments to common maintenance practices can make huge environmental improvements. Learn about alternative techniques that supplement basic LELE leaf mulching practices.

Radio Interview WRCR, “Storm Water Consortium” October 13, 2016, “Rethinking Leaves and the ‘Green Desert'” Listen to the PODCAST.

To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work

Photo: Laura Frazier/Audubon Photography Awards

A manicured lawn might look nice, but it's not very good for the birds, bees and other creatures. This recent article asks us to "save the seeds" and "leave the leaves." Mulching is good for bird habitat, especially when performed in conjunction with other simple techniques outlined in the article by Andy McGlashen dated October 06, 2017 from the Audubon website.

What's It All About?

Watch the LELENY  PSA (30 seconds).

This Love 'Em and Leave 'Em PSA video is available on YouTube for linking. If you would like to have a high-resolution master for cable or FIOS viewing, check out the various formats available in our Toolkit video section. If none of these formats work for you, please email us with your specific requirements.

PSA created by Edouard Nammour for the Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium and Greenburgh Nature Center. This PSA was created in support of the the Love 'Em and Leave 'Em program funded by Westchester Community Foundation with matching funds from the Local Sustainability Matching Fund, a project of the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.

International Year of Soils

It's all about the soil!
2015 has been declared the "International Year of Soils" by the United Nations. Soils play a crucial role in food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction and sustainable development. The health and preservation of soils world-wide, and the associated beneficial impacts on wildlife, clean air and clean water, have become concerns shared by many researchers, policy makers, farmers, landscapers and laypersons alike.

A major focus of the LELE initiative is on the benefits of leaf mulching for your lawn, as well as for your landscape and veggie garden beds. But we also recognize that it is important to strike a balance with other habitat needs, and thus our recommendations include leaving whole leaves in place in wooded areas and scrubby margins. This is because many insects such as butterfly and moth species overwinter as pupae in leaf litter and scrub. Maintaining some leaves unchopped (unmown) provides over-wintering areas for many important beneficial insects and small animals including salamanders, earthworms and certain bird species.

The National Wildlife Federation writes on its blog that “You shouldn’t feel obligated to rake up every last leaf in your yard this fall.  Leave leaves on the ground — they have a lot of benefit to wildlife and your garden." The article goes on to state that "the leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem! Many wildlife species live in or rely on the leaf layer to find food and other habitat, including salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, many insects species... Many butterfly and moth species overwinter as pupae in leaf litter."

In a related blog posting, the NWF outlines 6 Excuses to Avoid Yard Work This Fall regarding the benefits of leaf mulching and of simply leaving leaves alone in margin areas:
  1. Provide Habitat for Wildlife
  2. Provide Nutrients for Organisms
  3. Reduce Waste
  4. Increase Fertility of Your Soil
  5. Reduce Pollution
  6. Save Time

For more information about the magic of your soil, read this brochure from the American Museum of Natural History: Life In the Leaf Litter (.pdf file). It's a fascinating guide to the diversity of soil organisms and the crucial role that invertebrates play in woodland ecosystems. The booklet was based on a leaf litter survey conducted by the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology.

In the News!

As CBS 2′s Janelle Burrell reports, Fall is the time of year when many homeowners spend their weekends piling up the leaves so county contractors can haul them off to a composting site. A movement known as “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” is catching on across Westchester, in place of the more traditional raking, vacuuming and bagging.

“It’s throwing money away for sure,” landscaper Tim Downey told Burrell. “It’s chauffering the leaves around. We call it taking leaves for a truck ride.”

Watch the entire clip on the CBS 2 news site (1:15 in length, preceded by a short ad). Posted Nov. 25, 2013.

Meanwhile, Leaf Mulching is covered in the New York Times.

"They have been burned, blown into piles, raked into bags and generally scorned by homeowners everywhere. Fall leaves — so pretty on the trees, such a nuisance when they hit the ground — have long been a thing to be discarded. But now some suburban towns are asking residents to do something radical: Leave the leaves alone."

Check out the full article (.pdf) by Lisa W. Foderaro. Posted Nov. 24, 2013.

Your Leaves: To Love ’Em Is to Leave ’Em…

An Environmental & Cost-Saving Initiative of Westchester County and Local Municipalities

Leaves are a valuable resource that many property owners let go to waste every fall. Leaves are blown into piles on the street, or placed into bags, left for municipal pickup. Too often these vast piles spread out creating a safety hazard for drivers and wash into the storm drains, clogging storm sewers. Leaves decaying on the street also release nutrients such as phosphate and nitrogen (aka “fertilizer”) that eventually wash into our rivers. Ugh! What a mess!

Leaf piles in street, clogging storm drain, leaching into river.
Leaf piles on street cause unsafe driving conditions,
clog storm drains, and leach phosphorus into river.

DPW crew working overtime to collect leaves left curbside.
DPW crew working overtime to collect leaves left curbside.
So as a homeowner or property owner, are there better options? How can we be smarter about how we deal with fall’s bounty of leaves? Answer: Leave ’em at home!

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

This practice of mulching-in-place offers many benefits:
  • Saves money: Helps keep your taxes down by reducing municipal leaf pickup and disposal. (Landscapers can also save operating costs by needing smaller crews and avoiding dumping fees.)
  • Saves effort: Many homeowners (and landscapers) find that mulching leaves in place actually is easier than raking, bagging, or blowing them to the curb.
  • Keeps your property healthy: Leaf mulch recycles nutrients into your soil to feed your plants, improves soil health, and helps retain moisture, reducing the need for watering in dry spells.
  • Helps the planet: Transporting and disposing of leaves from your curb wastes energy and contributes to pollution. LELE helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your local community.
By now you’re thinking, “OK, I’m sold! So how do I mulch-in-place? What’s the secret?”


The benefits of the LELE mulching-in-place methodology can be expanded to encompass a three-season lawn care approach when you include grass cycling. Leaving mulched/shredded grass clippings in place adds nitrogen fertilizer and other organics back into the lawn. No special equipment beyond a mulching mower is required.

Do you know the 4 Simple Steps of good lawn care?

This brochure from Montgomery County, MD provides a great overview of "how to" grasscycle and outlines the benefits. A recommended quick read!

Get additional background and "how to" information in our grass-cycling FAQ.

Training and On-Site Consultations

If you use a landscape maintenance company, your landscaper may require some initial instruction in these greener practices, as well as needing a simple, low cost conversion of mowers to perform efficient mulch mowing. But once done, you'll both see an improvement in your topsoil, turf and plantings.

We encourage all homeowners, property managers, landscapers, local municipal officials, and DPW & Parks staff to check out the valuable research information, "how to" videosquestions & answers,  and program resources.

Check out our calendar of training events for upcoming LELE "how to" training presentations scheduled in your area. The EVENTS page also has documentation of recently held events.

Please contact us (email address at top of left column) for information concerning free on-site consultations available to landscape professionals, property managers, and municipal staff.

Find out more about our LELE trainers who are professional landscapers experienced with leaf mulching and grass-cycling methodologies.

Download a list of local landscapers who provide LELE leaf mulching services to their clients.(.pdf)

Landscaper Training in Spanish

Por favor vea este video en espanol de como manejar las hojas del otono lleno de ideas y consejos de parte de la campana Lele leaf mulch mowing, cortar y moler hojas para jardineros profesionales. (Tardacion de video 7 minutos.) Producido con fondos de el concejal de legisladores del condado de Westchester.

Simply Amazing!

I went to a recent Vulcher mulch mowing demo at the Greenburgh Nature Center - it was amazing.  The mower absolutely pulverized the leaves into next to nothing in a single pass.  After a landscaper sees what it can do there is no way that they would want to tarp and/or bag leaves - it just doesn't make sense given this new technology.  Hopefully your landscaper will be convinced, too! 

 - a resident of Scarsdale

Read more about the Vulcher 2.


Don't believe us? Read first hand experiences from folks like you - homeowners, property managers, professional landscapers, municipal officials, and DPW & Parks staff. Each one of these testimonials provides another snapshot of why LELE is a win-win: "It's simple, it's green and it makes cents."

LELE Toolkit

We have also developed a wide range of materials for training, public education and outreach - all of which is available for your modification and re-use. Municipalities, environmental groups, and landscapers have already created customized versions of various items for their own local use.

Bi-lingual "How To" card

Informational Bookmark

Use the Toolbox for free! 

Join in the LELE initiative today!