Or so says the bumper sticker on my landscape truck.

The funny thing is leaf blowers also blow, metaphorically speaking. It is a sad thing to hear the gardeners arrive with all their noise and have it still called gardening. I beg to differ.

I put this all to the test when I called for the “Broom vs. the Leaf Blower” challenge that took place in December of 2015. This field test challenge was set up with four judges. One with a decibel meter judging for noise pollution, one testing for air quality, one with a stopwatch judging for speed and one with a camera judging for thoroughness. My broom and I and my challenger with a two-stroke leaf blower had the exact same area to clean with the exact same amount of debris. As you may have guessed with my broom I won in the noise pollution and the air pollution categories. On a scale of 1 to 10 we tied at 6 for thoroughness and I lost by 14 seconds in speed. In other words as the headline in the paper declared the following day, “Broom sweeps the competition”. See the video of the challenge here…

The Blow Job without the happy ending.

More and more cities in California are banning gas leaf blowers precisely because of this unhappy ending. Leaf blowers are implicated in stirring up particulate matter including dog feces, pesticides, heavy metals and fungal spores that stay airborne for hours, a bad thing for those of us who breathe. They disturb our circadian rhythms, a bad thing for those of us who sleep. Even chickens exposed to loud leaf blower noise refuse to lay eggs. Soil exposed to the gale force winds of a leaf blower end up denuded and that’s a sad ending for the life in the soil.

The theft of the quiet soundscape

Often “Mow, Blow and Go” landscape companies forgo horticultural training for their employees in favor of power and speed. This comes in the form of two-stroke leaf blowers, string trimmers, hedge trimmers and mowers. Power and speed equals noise, exhaust and dust.
In the leaf blower’s wake, animals flee. Birds, bees and butterflies depart, and the plants wish they could. Often the leaves in one yard just get blown to the neighbors and now the neighbors are up in arms. Dust gets blown onto cars and house windows for someone else to clean up later. Ultimately the soundscape is sacrificed in the pursuit of the immaculate landscape.
Landscapers have to be on constant guard against theft of these supposedly indispensable and costly pieces of landscape equipment, while nobody is too worried about the theft of a corn broom. The broom has no on-and-off switch and it runs on orange juice and toast. At the end of the day when using a broom there is no buying, mixing and spilling of the oil and gas mixture and no carbon footprint. One of the principles in the design science known as Permaculture is to “Use small and slow solutions”. The use of the broom meets this principle perfectly, especially when using the classic witches’ broom made from sustainably grown bamboo. My ride of choice. That’s why my next bumper sticker will say, “My other truck is a broom.”


Ken Foster, the owner of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping and the author of this post is the proud winner of the “Broom vs. Leaf Blower Challenge.  www.http://player.tout.com/tout/mqp8uv