There’s nothing quite like the spectacular beauty of trees shedding their leaves to get us in the mood for all things fall. Bring on the sweaters, the cider, and the crisp, cool autumnal air. Oh, and don’t forget the rake. Because sooner or later, all those leaves are going to end up on your lawn—and you’re going to need to do something about them. We understand the struggle is real when it comes to ridding your landscape of the seemingly endless gathering of leaves. That’s why we’ve put together the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of leaf cleanup with some great tips and tricks to help you out.
First things first, why get rid of the leaves at all? What happens if you just leave ‘em where they lie? It really about the health of your lawn. Lawns in our part of the country are made up of cool-season grasses, meaning they are most active during times of the year when the weather is moderately cool. Fall is the time when your lawn heads into revitalization mode. It gets busy working overtime to strengthen its root system by soaking in sunlight, nutrients and water while taking advantage of the cooler temps. Your lawn needs room to breathe and a thick layer of leaves can hinder growth. It can prevent sunlight from reaching the grass underneath and can form a barrier that impedes water, nutrients and air flow from reaching the roots. A dense layer of leaves can create a hospitable environment for pests and encourage disease or mold. Heavily-matted leaves can even inhibit new grass from emerging in the spring. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to chase down every single leaf. Unless you’re a perfectionist, couple of strays here and there will not cause any damage.
If you’re the one tackling the leaves, keep in mind that raking can be a serious workout. Wet leaves make for heavier, more difficult work, so wait until leaves have dried out before getting started. Working smarter, not harder is key. Start out by standing upright and maintaining good posture. Sweep in smaller motions to gather more leaves per sweep. Don’t stand in one place while you rake. Move your feet and legs as you bend and twist to prevent discomfort and injury. Switch your main hand–the bottom one on the rake–often. Always use your knees to bend, not your back. If back or shoulder pain are a problem for you, consider an ergonomic rake. They have bent handles designed to take the pressure off your back and shoulders. Alternatively, you can use a backpack blower so there’s not so much bending required. And finally, don’t forget to dress for the job. Wear long pants and layers to protect you from insects and to keep you warm. You can always shed layers as you heat up. And don’t forget the gloves, a good pair can go a long way in saving your hands from blisters.
Is there a perfect time to rake leaves? Early on when the first leaves start to fall, you may opt to use a mulching mower to go over the leaves. This can help cut down on work later and the mulch will provide your lawn with some great nutrition. Focus on keeping walkways and high traffic areas clear for safety’s sake. Once the leaves start to pile up, it’s time to grab your rake (or blower) and get at it. Recognize that based on the size of your property and the number of trees, you may need to set aside a few days to complete the job.
Invest in a good leaf rake. Your trusty old heavy metal garden rake is not going to cut it. Take a spin through your local home improvement store and try before you buy. A sturdy rake with wide tines that bend a bit will get you more leaves per sweep. There are several things to consider. Plastic may be the lightest, but can be flimsy. If you are only raking leaves, a plastic rake is a solid choice, but if you will be using it to move heavier debris, opt for steel. Pay attention to handle length. If you choose a rake that is too short for your height, you can expect to end up with a sore back and shoulders. When considering the width of your rake, think about where you are using it. Are you mainly clearing out open spaces, where a wider head width would be ideal, or do you need a narrower head to reach in to tight spaces, such as between the plants in your flower beds? If you need to do both, try a rake with an expandable/retractable head. The tines on your rake matter too. Thinner tines work well to pick up leaves, but again, if you are picking up heavier debris, wider sturdier tines are best. Considering a blower? Find the perfect one for your yard here.
It’s time to get started. Rake with the direction of the wind and rake downward (utilizing that gravitational pull) to avoid raking up the same leaves again and again. Move backwards as you rake, pulling leaves towards you. A couple of suggestions as to how to make the job easier? Use a
tarp of heavy canvas or plastic that won’t fly away and tear easily. Sweep leaves onto it and pick up the corner of the tarps to move it to your next work area. You can also utilize lawn and leaf paper
bags and fill as you go, pulling them along with you. No matter your method, stomp on your leaves every so often to compact them to keep them from flying away. And don’t forget to be aware of how much waste you put in a bag, on a tarp, or in a bin at a time (you want to be able to drag or carry it to its final destination).
You’ve put in the effort and your landscape is free of leaves. Now what? Leaves make great mulch.
And it’s free and can be just as good or better than what you buy. Depending on the tree it came from, leaves can be a great addition to your compost pile. Adding them to grass, pine straw, sticks and a bit of soil will create a nitrogen-rich compost that will work great in your garden or for shrubs and trees. Just want those leaves to disappear? Hop on your city’s website to get information on leaf and debris pickup in your area (click for Portage and Kalamazoo). This will include how to properly dispose of your leaves, such as whether you need to bag leaves a certain way or just pile them on the roadside. You will also be able to see scheduled pickup times for your neighborhood, so that you can get those leaves out of sight and out of mind!
Here’s to hoping your seasonal clean-up doesn’t fall by the wayside. Need some assistance? Our team can help with your outdoor needs throughout the year. Contact our office to request a quote for full-service maintenance!