How to Deal with Autumn Leaves
How to Deal with Autumn Leaves
In many areas, autumn is the time of year when trees and other vegetation shed leaves. While the leaves will eventually decompose if left on the ground, you may want to speed up the process by breaking them down. Or, you may decide to collect the leaves and either recycle or dispose of them. However you decide to deal with your autumn leaves, you can make fall cleanup easier with a plan!
Add landscaping near deciduous trees. Make beds with plants that like natural mulch near the trees in your yard that shed leaves. When there are leaves on the ground, run them over once with a mower. Then rake them right into the beds.
- For your bed, consider shrubs, garlic, roses, and tender perennials.
Decide if you need to collect the leaves. Several inches of leaf layer is natural and even an ecosystem. Wildlife like salamanders, turtles, chipmunks, and other species survive on such mini habitats. Leaf litter also provides an overwintering shelter for beneficial insects and earthworms. However, if thick piles of leaves are smothering your lawn, you may want to break them down, if not collect them.
- Consider collecting the leaves if they cover over a third of your yard and you can’t see the top of the grass blades.
- You may need to collect the leaves if you have a Home Owners Association that has specific requirements about autumn cleanup.
- If you decide to collect them, don’t try to do a whole season of leaf pickup in a single day. Plan leaf cleanup for several days in the autumn season.
Rake pine needles first. You may want to separate pine shedding from deciduous leaves. Pine needles are acidic, and there are certain plants that like acidic soil – and others that don’t. Therefore it’s beneficial to separate the pine needles to use as their own separate mulch.
- Rake the needles as soon as you notice them on the ground, since they usually fall before leaves do.
- Pack the pine needles in garbage bags and store them in a dry place. Use them when you need acidic mulch.
4Decide if you want to rake wet or dry leaves. Wet leaves will form a more stable pile, but they are also heavier to rake. Choose dry weather if you want to use a leaf vacuum, as wet leaves can clog the vacuum. Don’t rake wet leaves if you have allergies, as mold and mildew in wet leaves can upset your sinuses.
Pick up sticks. You can choose to do this before or during leaf cleanup. Gather up the sticks in your yard and put them aside in a pile. Consider keeping the brush pile there as a shelter for birds, chipmunks and other wildlife. You can also set sticks aside for use as fire kindling.
- Use a wheelbarrow or yard waste bin if you want to move the stick pile somewhere else in your yard.
Collecting the Leaves
Rake the leaves. Raking is ideal for small lawns and gardens. Use quality rakes, preferably with soft grips. Rakes 36” or wider require more force, so choose a rake that is of standard width (24”). You can opt for ergonomic rakes, which have specially curved handles. Don’t retrace your steps. Work from one side of the lawn to the other in a zigzag.
- With each line you rake, move the leaves into the area where there are leaves you haven’t raked yet. Every time you create a ridge of leaves, push it a few feet into the unraked area. Repeat this until your pile is two feet tall (0.6096 meters) or is getting hard to move.
- You can purchase ergonomic handles separately and attach them to your rakes. Attach handles by screwing them into your rakes. By doing this with two rakes, you can rake leaves with both arms and without bending over.
Move the leaves with a tarp or bag. Use a sheet, a tarp, or a tablecloth to move large piles of leaves. Put the four corners of the tarp together and move the bundle by dragging it. You can use this method in addition to or instead of using leaf bags.
- Eight feet by eight feet (2.44 meters) is a good-sized tarp for this purpose.
- You can purchase fun, seasonal leaf bags like large bags with jack-o-lantern faces to decorate your yard and move leaves out of the way at the same time!
Mow your lawn and the leaves. This is a good option for large lawns. Use a grass catcher on the mower to collect the chopped leaves. Raise your mower deck to the second-highest setting before mowing your lawn.
- If the leaves are wet, use the side-discharging mode of your mower for the first pass in order to loosen and lift the leaves. Then switch to either mulching or bagging mode and mow over the leaves again.
Use a leaf blower and/or vacuum. Consider using a leaf blower, especially if you have a big yard with many trees. Leaf blowing is particularly useful if you have woods up against your property, as you can blow the leaves back onto the forest floor. You can use a vacuum attachment for your leaf blower or use a leaf vacuum by itself. Handheld leaf vacuums are handy for small yards or areas.
- If you’re purchasing a leaf blower or vacuum, look for one that has a shredding function. Consider the ratio of reduction; for example, if the product offers a 10:1 reduction ratio, it will convert ten bags of unchopped leaves into one bag.
- Keep in mind that leaf blowers are loud. Also, the most effective ones are gas-powered, which use fossil fuels that contribute to air pollution.
Hire professionals. If you decide to hire a professional to do your leaf cleanup, you can expect to pay for each job, several times per season. If you don’t have the time to do the leaf cleanup, this may be the option for you. Alternatively, you can rent a wheeled leaf blower like the pros use for about $50 a day.
- Most homeowners pay between $174 and $491, but it will depend on the size of your lawn. You can expect to pay anywhere between $75 and $900.
- Try contacting a professional and have your yard measurements ready as well as how many trees are in your yard. Ask if they can give you quote for leaf cleanup.
Disposing of Leaves
Mulch them into the lawn. Optionally, you can aerate your lawn first to provide nutrients deeper into the soil. Mulch the leaves into small pieces with your mower, about dime-sized. You may have to mow over them a few times if the leaves are large or the layer is deep. When you cleanup a yard like this, you will leave the small pieces on the lawn to work their way into the soil. Leaf mulch suppresses weeds and fertilizes the ground. Mulched leaves will enrich your soil in the spring.
- You should be able to see about half of the grass through the chopped leaves if you want them to decompose quickly.
Make mulch for gardens or flower beds. One you have collected the leaves, you can shred them for use in compost or mulch. Put the leaves into a large trash can. Then break them down with a weed whacker. You could use a leaf shredder instead.
- Leaves make great natural mulch. They don’t transfer black spores onto houses and buildings the way wood mulch does, which can damage[…]
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