As summer fades into the fall many yards become covered in a blanket of colorful leaves. While they might be pretty to look at, their removal and disposal is a chore that not many look forward to when that time of year comes around.
Trees shed their leaves every autumn to make way for new leaves come spring. This purge allows the trees to eliminate the old leaves, which are no longer useful for providing the tree with water and nutrients and ensures their winter survival.
Although the trees are just cycling as nature intended, it is the homeowner that is responsible for what they “leave” behind and with so many options choosing the best method can be tricky.
Raking, mulching, mowing and blowing are some of the ways to deal with the fall leaves and spending a few moments to properly assess tools, time and yard size can go a long way in determining which direction to go for effective leaf removal.
Take a look at some of the most popular approaches to clearing away the leaves, and decide which is the top pick for both the yard and the budget.
Rake Them Up
Taking a rake to that leaf pile is probably the way most tackle the task and there are many benefits to this method. First and foremost, anyone that has spent a Saturday afternoon raking leaves will tell you what a great total body workout it is. On average, an hour of raking up leaves burns 200 calories for a 185-pound person so if it takes 3 hours to rake up all those leaves that is a substantial workout.
There are definite benefits to the lawn too. Deep raking removes the top layer of dead grass, called the “thatch” and promotes air flow which in turn aerates the lawn making it healthier. Putting in the work now yields a more lush, green lawn come spring.
Using the right rake makes a difference too-something light, easy to maneuver and doesn’t clog is preferred such as this CRAFTSMAN Leaf rake 24-in Lawn And Leaf Rake. Ergonomic, sturdy with wide tines, this rake gets great reviews for both comfort and durability.
Choosing to rake is easy, affordable and great for your health and well-being!
Bagging leaves is a good choice if the yard that needs clearing is on the smaller side because the process of gathering up the fallen leaves and putting them into bags can be quite tedious. The upside of bagging leaves is that it leaves the lawn looking very well groomed by eliminating the piles of leaves usually left by other means. Bagging also allows for the collection of other lawn debris such as pine needles and branches.
Buying the right kind of bags is important if going this route. Biodegradable bags are preferred because they decompose with the leaves, however a sturdy reusable bag like this one, can be easily stored away and used season after season.
Mowing over the leaves seems like it would be the easiest way deal with them but choosing this method does require the correct tools and meticulous planning and upkeep. Most mowers do have a mulching blade (double check before proceeding) which will need to be sharp for optimal results.
The leaves do need to be dry, and it is recommended that there be no higher accumulation than 6 inches. If there is a thicker blanket covering the lawn start with raking and then mowing for additional upkeep. Mowing works best when done consistently, up to twice per week if there are a lot of trees surrounding the property.
Blow Them Away
It is hard to beat the speed and convenience of just blowing the fallen leaves away but doing so does come at a bigger price than other methods of removal. Noise pollution, air pollution from gas powered blowers and damage to the lawn are just a few reason to avoid leaf blowers if possible. The process of blowing leaves also blows away important nutrients and can potentially erode topsoil over time harming the delicate balance that keeps the lawn looking lush.
If there is a lot of concrete or rock around the property, then employing a leaf blower on those areas is not only acceptable but might be the only way to clear leaves from those areas. Leaf blowers vary in price from $40.00 all the way up to $500.00 and selecting the right one for the job will depend on the size of the lawn and personal preference between gas powered, cordless battery powered or electric.
Composting leaves is an excellent way to dispose of leaves in the most environmentally friendly way. Leaf compost, when combined with other organic materials from the lawn such as grass clippings turn into a rich, dark soil like matter that can be used all around the yard in flower beds and gardens.
Composting is simple too! Shred the leaves with the mower to break them down to speed up decomposition, collect the remains, and transfer to a compost bin or dedicated fenced in space.
Turn and mix the pile regularly to encourage oxygen flow and to enrich the pile with nitrogen to “heat” up the compost-good sources are food scraps like coffee grounds and egg shells.
Use Them for Mulch
Using the leaves for mulch is free, easy to do and very beneficial. Leaves provide insulation for the soil, keeping in moisture and they also inhibit weed growth. They also will furnish much needed nutrients to the garden as they decompose.
Leave Them Alone
Although it might be easy to just let the leaves lie where they fall it really is not recommended to do so. A covered lawn can be an eyesore for the neighbors of course, but raking or bagging the leaves isn’t just about them but rather keeping what is underneath healthy come spring and summer.
A robust looking lawn requires plenty of sunlight and oxygen, and if the lawn is covered in leaves it will in essence “suffocate.” If the bare minimum in dealing with leaves is all that time permits, rake them into the garden or flower beds for mulch or run over them with the mower to chop them up. They can stay put and help nourish the grass.
No matter what the preference for dealing with leaves every fall the important thing to remember is that there are plenty of options to choose from. Most of all, enjoy the process! Get out into the crisp fall air and take in the beautiful colors and sound of crunchy leaves beneath your feet while rejoicing in the fact it is only once a year!
Nikki is a full-time homemaker with a love for plants, nature, and the outdoors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in education, combining her talents and favorite hobby to write educational material for other plant and backyard enthusiasts. Co-founder of Backyardville, Nikki seeks insight for her blogs through reading along with hands-on research in her own yard and garden. Her experiences as a child growing up in a farming community and spending time with her gardening grandmother sparked an interest in growing plants and seeking ways to beautify the spaces around her. Nikki lives in a quiet suburb in Iowa with her husband and their two outdoor-loving children.