The Best Way to Clean Leaves This Fall
Fall is a beautiful time of year. Cooling temperatures, shorter days and, of course, falling leaves. While still attached to trees, the leaves provide a breathtaking pallet of color to behold. It’s when leaves hit the ground that potential problems can occur. It’s also when – depending upon the number of trees — leaf cleanup can occupy a good chunk of one’s time and energy.
Left to pile up, leaves can provide the perfect environment for fungus growth, which can attack turf and shrubbery. Leaves piled high against a home’s foundation or siding can lead to mold, mildew and rot. Not to mention the fact that vermin and other pests love the protection that leaves provide up against a home. Fallen leaves also present several safety issues. Leaf covered streets, walks, paths and patios can become slick as ice, which could result in a nasty fall.
We have lots of experience when it comes to doing battle with leaves. As kids we took care of our aunt and uncle’s large garden, which was covered with deciduous trees. The trees provided great shade when we were weeding, mowing, edging or pruning during the hot summer months, but we knew we would pay big time come fall when the trees would become barren.
During the nine years that we worked in the garden, we used a variety of means to gather leaves, the most popular of which was with a good old fashioned metal rake. We can still feel the blisters (that would eventually turn to calluses) on our hands from the wood rake handle. Today, the rake is still tops for leaf cleanup and the most environmentally friendly. What’s different is that wood handles have, for the most part, been replaced by lighter, more user-friendly metal or composite materials. Some brands have padded grips and are ergonomically designed for a good grip and fewer back, neck and shoulder injuries. In addition, leaf rakes are now available in a host of shapes and sizes to get between ornamental shrubbery without the least bit of damage.
Electric and gas powered leaf blowers have become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades. The power blower moves the leaves into a pile which, as with using a rake, must be placed into garbage bags or cans for disposal. Many power blowers can also be used to vacuum up leaves. This can be an especially tedious task if you have lots of leaves since the bags are small and anything larger would create too much weight to tote the device. More and more communities are adopting ordinances against leaf blowers due to the noise and air pollution that they create.
If you have a large ‘back forty’ as did our aunt and uncle, you might want to consider a large walk-behind vacuum. It’s a mini ‘street sweeper’ and can be used on paths, patios, driveways, streets and turf. It has a huge bag that can be emptied into garbage bags, trash containers or, better yet, your compost pile. One caution: vacuuming up wet leaves can make emptying the bag a huge challenge.
An increasingly popular tool for leaf laden turf is the mulching mower. It mulches the leaves and grass and shoots the material back into the turf for nutrients. An optional bag can be used when you have more leaves than you need mulch. A battery operated mulching mover is the most effective, environmental friendly means of dealing with leaves – bar none!
Regardless as to the means that you use to gather leaves, one of the best things that you can do is to utilize the leaves as part of a mulch pile. You can recycle the leaves with other organic materials to create rich nutrient that can make your garden both healthy and the envy of the neighborhood.
A rake, a mulching mower and a compost pile; three winning elements for a safe, attractive and environmentally friendly garden.
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