Save Your Lawn: Top 5 Ways to Fall Leaf Clean Up!

Happy Harvest!  I mean Autumn.  No, that’s not it – I know, Fall!  That’s right, happy Fall (who says that?).  This time of year was once referred to as Harvest because farmers would ‘harvest’ their crops during a time period that lasted from August through November.  After the 16th century, the Latin word Autumn came into play for a number of confusing reasons then when Isaac Newton’s Theory Gravity came into play someone noticed leaves Fall to the ground.  What we know for sure is that in the northern hemisphere (that’s where we live) the season happens mid-September through mid-December.


You’d think that as the weather cools down and plants begin their resting period that goes for our lawns, too.  Fall brings along a number of challenges for the lawn. Knowing how to manage and go with the autumn flow is important for its wellbeing.  The hardest part is understanding we need to simply modify what we do for the betterment of the grass.

Pick Up Those Leaves.  An interesting thing happens when leaves are left on grass – they begin to compost and they can mulch your turf to death!  The second any kind of material is left on a lawn it shades it from the sun inhibiting it from growing properly.  Here’s an example, have you ever left a hose on the grass for a couple of days then realize it needs to be rolled up?  Look at how a snake pattern of yellow grass is left behind.  The grass is literally dying from being covered up and that’s what’ll happen when leaves aren’t removed in a timely manner.  As pretty as leaves look adorning the turf with a leafy autumn surface it’s important to stay on top of removing them and the way you do it is up to you.

            Good ol’ fashion raking.  Raking, bagging, or hauling leaves to a compost heap can burn about 350-450 calories per hour.  Great exercise for that hour-shaped body of yours.  Rakes come in a menagerie of types and sizes: bamboo, metal, and plastic.  With slight pressure, some rakes will dig deep past the leaves into the grass while others can only gather the ones on the surface.

Handles vary with leaf rakes as well. Some are heavier than others and they may or may not have some sort of grip.  Most rakes have a straight handle so switching from side to side is important to not wear yourself out on one side only.  And, take a lemonade break once in a while.  I have an ergonomic rake handle that’s kind of fun.  Instead of being straight, it has a couple of kinks in it so the rake fan stays in front of you instead of on the side. I said it’s fun, not practical, for a monster-sized guy like me.  But, it’s something to check out if they have them at your local hardware store.

Kid Tip:  Raking leaves in a giant pile then running through it will bring out the kid in you and is quite cathartic.  You’ll also be a big hit with your crumb crusher and even dog if you allow them to frolic through them.  In fact, buy some kid-sized rakes and let them help you gather them up over and over again.  This activity will definitely take them away from their electronics.


Leaf blower.  As the name implies a leaf blower can handle small amounts of leaves to be blown all over the neighborhood.  Or, if you know how to use it leaves can be blown in a tight circle to be picked up by hand.

Leaf blowers have come a long way over the years.  When I was fledging gardener at the ripe age of 12 years old I purchased my first leaf blower that had a flame thrower attachment on it (really, it’s true).  Good times!  Today you’d be hard-pressed to have such a fun leaf blower but you can get your hands on backpack and handheld 2-cycle gas blowers with tons of power.  Tethered electric leaf blowers are popular with small yards but what’s making a huge impact with consumers and pros alike are battery-operated leaf blowers.

Pro-Tip, Check Your Local Leaf Blower Codes:  Back in the late 50’s when Dom Quinto modified a chemical sprayer to blow leaves I’m sure he didn’t think there’d be such a controversy over them.  You see, California has strict gas powered leaf blower rules.  In some cities gas leaf blowers are banned and illegal to use.  In other cities they are only allowed at certain times of the day so not to disturb the peace.

Leaf sweepers.  Imagine for a moment a 12” diameter hairbrush that’s three feet long!  Attach it to wheels, a set of handles then push it along grass and it brushes leaves into a basket under the handles.  This is the way I used clean-up yards after mowing and during leaf gathering season.  They still can be found, are relatively easy to push and when the basket is full you simply empty it in a green waste receptacle or incorporate in your compost pile.

Vacuums.  A leaf vacuum, yes I owned one of the first of these too, are amazing.  Imagine a 36” 4-cycle gas-powered house vacuum on steroids pushing it up and down your lawn as it sucks up the leaves.  What’s really awesome about these expensive behemoths is that the blade that creates the suction also doubles as a kind of blender that chops the leaves in tiny pieces before bagging it.  The bag, in turn, holds tremendous amounts of leaf debris and is perfect for composting.  Just be forewarned that while the machine is working the bag fills up with air which has minute holes in it.  If you inadvertently kick the bag you’re sure to get blasted with dust.  Leaf vacuums are great to use but you will get dirty from head to toe.

Mowing/Mulching Leaves.  All newer lawnmowers have a way to block the outlet shoot.  It’s used when ‘mulching’ leaves or just mowing the lawn.  There’s a huge temptation to use this feature but we need to understand that your lawnmower blade, albeit as sharp as you may keep it, will make a mess of the lawn.  The leaves never get small enough to be forced into the grass thatch to hide.  An hour after you’ve mowed all you’ll see is a layer of choppy leaves and grass turning brown making it harder for the lawn to breath.


Nick Federoff,
Syndicated Radio and PBS|KLCS TV Host

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