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What call is there for a leaf blower?

Leaf blowers certainly make it easy to move leaves and other light garden debris into neat little piles. But most kinds operate with a very loud snarl that wipes out conversations within 100 feet and that just cannot be ignored within 900 feet.

Used improperly, blowers can also stir up a fine dust that can coat porches and windowsills up to a block away.

And they have even stirred up controversy among homeowners in some Western cities: in Beverly Hills, Carmel, and Lomita, for instance, they are now banned, and the issue is on the agenda in several other cities. The reason, say homeowners who support the ban, is that the annoyance of leaf-blower noise, smoke, and dust exceeds any savings in time or water.

Paradoxically, some municipalities once did (and some still do) encourage use of leaf blowers: during the drought of the later 1970s, every less-than-essential use of water--especially to wash down yards and driveways--was officially discouraged within the hardest-hit water districts in California.

Many professional gardeners now find leaf blowers indispensable: "They save us time and money, not to mention water," says a spokesman from the Southern California Gardeners' Federation. "The problem is irresponsible use," adds another professional gardener. "Some people blow debris, leaves, grass cuttings, and dust into neighbors' yards or into the street, and don't pick up the debris. Or they use the blowers at the wrong time."

If you plan to use a garden blower, keep in mind the following tips on etiquette.

Don't use a leaf blower too early or too late in the day. Never use it before 7 A.M. (or better, 8) on weekdays or 9 A.M. on weekends. This may be more than good manners--it's already mandated by many city and county noise ordinances.

Use the blower only for jobs it's best suited for, such as moving leaves and other light debris into piles for easy pickup. Don't try to use it to clear away dense materials such as soil, sand, or gravel.

Avoid stirring up dust. Before getting started, check for any open doors or windows at your house or your neighbors'.

As you work, keep the blower as close to the ground as feasible. (Use extensions and nozzles with swivels if available.) This minimizes the blowing of dust into the air, from which it settles onto windowsills and porches downwind.

Blow in the direction of the wind; if your machine has a mist attachment, use it to further reduce dust.

Minimize noise. Unless you live way out in the country, remember that every time you use the machine (even at 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon) the sound is almost certainly going to annoy or disturb someone within a 900-foot radius from the engine.

If you shop for one, select the quietest; the different makes and models vary in this important aspect. Definitely check out the electric-operated kinds. In our tests, they were somewhat less noisy than gasoline-powered kinds.

Always operate a blower at the lowest speed possible to do the job. Most have a throttle that will hold in any position you select. Operating at full throttle often throws light debris too far. Run the machine only to blow; don't idle or gun the motor needlessly.

Remember to pick up. Once leaves and garden debris have been blown into piles, pick up the piles and put them in garbage cans or onto the compost heap before wind can scatter the debris again.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1986
Words:577
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