7 leaf blower habits your neighbours can’t stand (and what to do instead)

Which side of the fence are you on?
Photography: Simon Whitbread | Styling: Corina Koch

Nothing shatters the image of a peaceful neighbourhood quite like a ceaseless symphony of power tools, and while noise from lawnmowers and whipper snippers may be tolerated as a necessary evil to keep the street looking tidy, leaf blowers aren’t quite as fortunate. 

Leaf blowers. You either love ’em or hate ’em. They either make light work of tedious garden clean-up or simply make noise as they blow leaves from one spot to another (often into the gutter or over the fence).

What’s the point of a leaf blower?

Paddy Milne, Director of The Scape Artist and host of Selling in the City, says when used correctly, leaf blowers do deserve a place in the garden shed. “Leaf blowers have found a way into most people’s yards because they make cleaning debris faster and easier.”

Some of the jobs they can be useful for include blowing leaves, clearing paved and concrete pathways, removing cobwebs and cleaning out the shed. “Unfortunately for the humble leaf blower, they came onto the market with noisy two-stroke engines,” he says. 

Despite their usefulness, these 7 leaf blower mistakes could be putting your neighbours off. Here’s how to correct them and keep your neighbours happy.

1. Using it at the wrong time of day

Leaf blowers are loud. And while blowing away leaves, debris and lawn clippings may be an important part of your weekend gardening routine, it’s important to spare a thought for your neighbours who may want to enjoy their weekend by catching up on sleep.

“Not all weekend garden warriors are completely respectful of their neighbours,” says Paddy, adding, “the noise has put leaf blowers in the bad books for plenty of people.” 

What to do instead: Check your watch before you haul out the leaf blower and make sure you’re following state legislation, which may prevent the use of noisy power tools during certain hours of the day. In New South Wales, for example, power tools can only be used between 8am and 8pm on Sundays and public holidays and from 7am to 8pm every other day. 

Tropical style garden with crazy paving pathway
Stone pathways can be difficult to sweep, so a leaf blower can be a time-saving tool. (Credit: Photography: Anjie Blair)

2. Using it too often

Most reasonable neighbours will tolerate the use of a leaf blower once, or even twice a week, but if the sight of a single leaf on your driveway causes you to whip out the blower all day every day, it may be time to take a long hard look in the mirror. 

According to the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, noise pollution can have very real impacts on health, causing symptoms including headaches, increased blood pressure and poor concentration in children, so it’s important to avoid adding to the noise where possible.

What to do instead: Limit leaf blowing to certain days of the week and use a broom or rake at other times. If you want to be extra courteous, chat with your neighbours to work out a time for using noisy garden tools that works for everyone. If you don’t know your neighbours, consider joining a community Facebook group or downloading an app like Nextdoor to establish a designated ‘leaf-blowing time’ so all of the noisy yard work in the street can be done at the very same time.

Cottage style country garden with brick pathways
Unless you live on a large property away from neighbours, keep your leaf blower use to a minimum. (Credit: Photography: Brigid Arnott)

3. Blowing leaves into the street (or your neighbour’s yard)

Apart from the noise they make, leaf blowers are frequently derided for their ability to move a problem from one spot to another. Blowing leaves over the fence may make your garden look tidy for a moment, but don’t be surprised when your neighbours get upset or the leaves blow straight back, starting the whole vicious cycle all over again.

Blowing leaves into the street is also not okay, says Paddy. “Keep the leaves out of the gutter on your street as this can cause them to get blocked and cause flooding.” 

What to do instead: Before you start the leaf blower, make sure you’ve worked out a) a destination for the leaves and b) how you’re going to dispose of them. “Composting is best, or use your green bin,” says Paddy. You can try blowing all of the debris onto a large tarp for easy disposal, or consider investing in a leaf blower model that can vacuum and mulch all the leaves you collect.

Hamptons style home exterior
Avoid blowing leaves into the street or your neighbour’s yard. (Credit: Photography: Claire McFerran | Styling: Alex Carter)

4. Mixing fuel incorrectly

If you’re using a petrol leaf blower, it’s important to mix the fuel properly, says Paddy. “Mixing fuel incorrectly can cause it to smoke and be louder.” 

What to do instead: Check the instruction manual to ensure you’re using the right ratio of oil to petrol for your machine.


5. Not upgrading to a battery-powered model

On the topic of fuel, petrol leaf blowers are significantly noisier than their battery-powered counterparts, says Paddy. 

“Many brands have moved to battery-operated machines, which are far quieter!” They’re also better for the environment, he says, “helping them to be accepted again and taken up even more widely.”

What to do instead: Buy a battery-powered leaf blower. Less noise, less pollution – it’s a win win!

Battery powered leaf blowers

6. Not using it efficiently

Leaf blowers have made tidying up the garden quicker and easier than ever, but it’s still important to work smarter, not harder. If you don’t think about where you’re going to direct the leaves before you begin, you could end up clearing the same area several times over – which will mean you’re using the machine for longer than you need to. Blowing against the wind will also make your job way harder than it needs to be.  

What to do instead: “Have a methodical pattern and blow with the wind!” says Paddy. Doing this will allow you to clean up all the leaves quickly and efficiently.

Brick home exterior with Jacarandas in front garden
Blow leaves with the wind, says Paddy. (Credit: Photography: Ess Creative | Styling: Jessica Bellef)

7. Using full blast for everything

Sometimes a gentle stream of air is all that’s required to get those leaves moving. Using full blast doesn’t necessarily mean the job will get done quicker. What it does mean is that the machine will create more noise and, if you accidentally scatter the leaves, the job will take longer too. 

What to do instead: Start on a lower setting and ramp up the power as required. Don’t attempt to blow large piles of leaves at one time. Once a sizeable pile of leaves gathers, pick them up by hand before continuing.

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