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How-To: Conquer Your Leaves Before Snow Flies

My favorite thing about Fall, aside from post-Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches (yum), is the vivid and warmly colored leaves on the trees. But, as we move into Winter (when we'll deal with ice and snow), this seasonal treasure will require some maintenance. And even if it's begun to snow in your neck of the woods, it's not too late to wrangle the leaves. If you have a landscaper or a young neighbor willing to do the work, you're off the hook here. But for the rest of you, getting rid of those leaves isn't such a terrible task, and I actually think it's kind of fun and festive. There are a few ways to do so, depending on what tools you have. To hear them,


  • The most obvious method is to use a rake. You can find one at your local hardware or garden supply store for under $30. There are dozens of options to choose from, but if you have a big yard to cover, you'll want one with a comfortable grip. You can also buy one with a pivoting head for better efficiency. Otherwise, you'll want to just grab the cheapest steel rake you can find (this is the most durable material). You'll also want to pick up some sort of drop cloth, plastic sheet, or tarp. Then, once you've done your shopping, lay down the cloth and rake your leaves straight back, directly onto the cloth. From the cloth, you can dump the leaves into plastic bags. Raking is certainly the cheapest method, and it'll give you a good workout!
  • If you happen to have a leaf blower (about $60-300), conquering your leaves will be much quicker for you than your raking counterparts. You can buy a leaf blower that's hand-held or with a backpack design; obviously the hand-held blowers are less expensive. You'll also choose from gas or electric when picking up a blower, both of which can be quite noisy. As you may have guessed, gas blowers pollute the air, and electric mowers need to be plugged into an outlet, so those are also things to consider. Some blowers have a vacuum feature, which makes things a lot easier. Whichever you choose, you'll also want to direct the leaves to a tarp of some sort.
  • Once you've gathered your leaves, you can also compost them. This is an eco-friendly solution that will turn your leaves into fertilizer for your plants. You'll have too many leaves for a kitchen compost, though, so you'll need a garden compost or to use your town's sidewalk compost pick-up.
  • Another option (which I would never, ever recommend) is to burn your leaves. While some of us may remember our families burning leaves when we were kids, this is no longer an acceptable method for dealing with leaves. The smoke pollutes the air, is a fire hazard, and the smoke can also cause serious health risks. There's also legislation against this for those reasons, so it may not be permitted in your town.

If these options don't suit you, maybe you should consider making thousands of leaf place cards! Or, just move to Florida!

Join The Conversation
lawchick lawchick 8 years
gooniette -- mowing over the leaves IS great as long as you don't have too many of them. The grass still needs sunlight and air or it will die, but some chopped up leaves are like lawn food. Also you can rake leaves into your beds. They will break up quickly and give the soil nutrients.
nancita nancita 8 years
I grew up in Florida and believe me, we still had leaves to rake, at least in the northern part. :) In fact, raking was my job, and I was very excited when my dad bought "me" a leaf blower. But now I feel like that's just a waste of fuel.
lawchick lawchick 8 years
We have a huge yard and the leaf blower doesn't even help much. Still takes about 4-5 hours to blow and bag! We compost as much as we have room for, but that leaves tons. Our city doesn't require you to bag leaves -- you can rake them to the curb and the vaccuum truck will come every month or so and rake them up --- but we bag them anyway because otherwise they will run into the gutter and clog it up. Oh well, at least raking is an amazing workout
gooniette gooniette 8 years
One more thing is to mow your lawn for the last time this year. It's great for fertilizing your grass and easier than raking. At least that's what my landscape architect husband told me.
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