A municipality in the Netherlands has declared fallen autumn leaves to be worth their weight in gold – ecologically speaking.
Eindhoven, in North Brabant, is encouraging its citizens to ditch the blowers and rakes and leave fallen leaves in gardens or parks.
Martijn van Gessel, a spokesman for Eindhoven council, said they were trying to change ideas about what public spaces should look like. The city wants to retire the leaf blowers in the parks and create a warm, moist, winter layer of leaves for insects to live on — even if it looks messy.
“For a long time, people were convinced that the grass always had to be cut, that the leaves had to be collected and that everything had to look neat,” Van Gessel said. “But in the parks we should let the leaves lie.”
Raymond van de Sande, manager of landscaping firm Ergon, said he sometimes had to explain the mission to the good people in Eindhoven. “What’s good about this is that it breaks with the tradition of gardening and the idea that everything has to look neat,” he said.
He added that leaving the leaves alone has many environmental benefits. “Let natural processes take their course, and you can see that there are benefits not only in the areas of ecology and biodiversity, but also with fewer weeds and less need for water in the summer.” When it rains, there is less runoff into the drains: that creates a whole process of improvement.”
The council is placing 200 ‘leaf bins’ around the city and encouraging people who tidy up fallen leaves around their street or house to deposit them to be chopped up, mulched and used as compost for the city’s plants next spring.
However, transplanting mulch can raise eyebrows, Van de Sande said. “Sometimes people find it a bit gross when we put the mulch back in the plant pots because it smells a bit like wood.” But if you explain that we are returning the leaves to restore the land that we ourselves have impoverished, then they understand.”