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Leave The Leaves: Westchester Officials Tout Mulching Over Raking And Bagging

SCARSDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - The leaves continue to fall as the temperature keeps dropping, but Westchester County officials are urging residents to forget about raking and bagging them up.

County leaders are touting a program that they say would not only save homeowners time but also save the county money without the leaves ever leaving your property.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, this 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.

"It was a good two, three hours just yesterday alone," one homeowner old Burrell.

A movement known as "love 'em and leave 'em" is catching on across Westchester, in place of the more traditional raking and bagging method.

"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."

Downey's been helping lead the effort across the county to get property owners and other landscapers to mulch their leaves right into the grass.

His machines have a special attachment that shreds the leaves into a fine confetti and leaves it behind.

Downey said not only is the mulching approach eco-friendly, it's also better than any fertilizer you could buy for your grass and soil.

"The microbiology in the soil digests that material and then makes it available as a food source for the plants come next spring," he told Burrell.

The annual cost for the county to haul off all the leaves left for collection is about $3.5 million, Burrell reported. County officials said they'd like to see that money saved.

"It's an opportunity to reduce the amount of yard waste or waste that has to managed at the curb," Marianne Petronella, Westchester's Director of Resource Management told Burrell.

Some residents said they're concerned leaving the leaves will just look like a mess on their well-manicured lawns.

"I don't think that's a good idea with the mulching because then it just leaves all the little leaves on the floor then," Scarsdale resident Don Baker told Burrell.

But supporters say the proof is in the grass.

"I didn't water the lawn once all last summer and the summer before last," Petronella said. "Pretty much everything looks just as good as my neighbors."

Supporters said "love 'em and leave 'em" could mean more green for your yard, and your county's budget.

County leaders say studies are still needed to make sure that the mulching technique doesn't promote the spread of ticks or any pathogens.

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