Lawn leaf removal best practices
October 13, 2008 1:02 PM   Subscribe

What is the easiest way to get leaves off of my lawn? (Short of paying someone to do it). Leaf blowers? Ergonomic rakes? Lawn mowers?
posted by profwhat to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When there are just a few, the lawnmower works well and you get your grass cut too. Leaf blowers beat rakes ten to one. Get ear plugs or muffs as the leaf blower is really loud. Blow the leaves in the back yard onto a tarp and drag that out to the front. Our town still lets us just pile them. Bagging is a huge pain. (Remember when you could burn them?)
posted by caddis at 1:10 PM on October 13, 2008

Paying someone else's kids to do it is generally easiest, but you don't want that. However, you didn't specify a few things that would be helpful here. How big is your lawn? What sort of leaf coverage do you have? What are your leaf disposal options?

Out here we see people doing the ride-on mower thing with blower attachments and then I think they run over the lines of leaves they create with some sort of mulcher attachment. It's crazy looking and super noisy but it seems like the guys riding the tractors enjoy it. So if you already have a ride-on mower, that works pretty well.

My favorite thing is to invite friends from Brooklyn up to Vermont who have small children and tell them that raking leaves is one of the fun things we do up here and watch them while they do it. Often you don't even have to pay them.

Seriously though when I've had a decent sized yard [but still a yard, not a meadow] I've gotten one of those ginormous rakes and a big tarp. Rake leaves into tarp, dump tarp-o-leaves over the embankment, repeat. It's not that hard and all you have to buy is one good rake. Somewhat better to buy two rakes and a sixpack and invite a friend.
posted by jessamyn at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use a (regular old gas-powered push-type) mulching lawnmower on a medium-heavy leaf load - I'm actually big on mulching both clippings and leaves because it provides a substantial component of your lawn's nitrogen needs. It does a pretty good job, appearance-wise. I'm not sure it would be sufficient with a heavy leaf load, we are not directly under any big trees.
posted by nanojath at 1:30 PM on October 13, 2008

There are very few things in this life that I hate more than raking. Therefore, I am a big fan of the electric leaf blower.

I have one like this. It blows AND sucks. I generally blow the leaves into the street (the city picks them up), but you could also blow them into a nice pile and then suck them up into the vacuum bag for disposal.

Electric is nice because it's lighter, quieter, less smelly, and requires little or no maintenance.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2008

I'm totally in the lawnmower camp, but I'm also not particularly anal about my lawn's appearance. If there are a lot of leaves, your front yard will have a weird orange cast to it until spring. :)
posted by paanta at 1:45 PM on October 13, 2008

Leaf blowing for me is a two-person job -- one to blow the light coverage into a pile, and one to rake that pile into a bigger pile or onto the tarp. Any blowers I've every used were inefficient on larger piles (just as easy to push them with the rake. )

Also, keep your lawn cut nice and short leading up to Leaf Weekend. It makes both raking and blowing so much easier.

Finally, don't get into that mode where your lawn is like your living room carpet. The grass will deal nicely with more leaves than you think -- what will kill the rass is the coverage so deep you can kick up puffs of leaves as you walk along. If you need to time-triage, rake up that part first.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:46 PM on October 13, 2008

I am a long-time leaf blower hater, but last year was so driven to distraction by having a yard full of leaves and no trees (thanks neighbors!) that I succumbed and bought an electric leaf blower.

I took it back two days later. I've gone back to a rake.

It wasn't just the noise (which isn't as bad as a gas powered one, but still unpleasant), but it just didn't much work for me. My conclusion is that you can't cheap out on the power level. The bottom of the line might work for some people if your leaves are dry and the surface smooth, but the fresh leaves off my neighbor's black walnut tree were too heavy to be blown off my (admittedly not short-enough grass) far by the little Toro I picked up.

A $100 blower (rather than the $30 one I got) might do a better job but I decided I'd rather save the money and get the exercise.
posted by phearlez at 2:18 PM on October 13, 2008

It blows AND sucks.

As does mine. If you're considering this, though, be aware that when my cheapo leaf blower is in suck mode, it manages to pulverize a certain quantity of the leaves in its workings and blow the powder out the top vent--which is usually pointing toward your face. Result: nostrils full of icky brown glop for days. Some people might want to accessorize with a face mask, particularly if you're more allergy-prone than I am. Or, when you're shopping for a blower, hold the display model in the store and try to figure out where the vent is pointing.
posted by gimonca at 2:30 PM on October 13, 2008

I don't like the blower much. My parents have a huge lawn with lots of trees, and we've had good luck with mulching, first with a push mower and then with a riding mower. And it's all natural and gives the lawn nutrients and all that jazz. Might be worth giving it a couple passes to get the leaves into little tiny bits.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:01 PM on October 13, 2008

I'll make a comment from the neighbor's perspective. While electric blowers might sound quieter to the operator, the high pitch whine that emanates from their motors is much more annoying than the growl of a gas engine to neighbors. Also, watching my neighbor spend 2.5 hours on a weekend morning using his leaf blower on a lawn that would take me 45 minutes to rake makes me wonder if he just likes having an excuse not to hear his wife and kids.
posted by mollweide at 5:29 PM on October 13, 2008

A leaf blower is like nothing else for cleaning out under shrubbery and other hard-to-rake places. But it does kinda suck for the "mass movement" of leaves. Once a pile is a certain height you have to keep going back and forth, back and forth to move it anywhere significant. Also, the blower itself -- unless it's a tiny electric -- is pretty heavy and the vibration wears on your arms as much as the noise wears on your ears (even with hearing protection, which is needless to say essential).

I'm responsible for four properties and this year I finally bought a lawn sweeper. It's no more exertion than running the lawn mower, it uses no gas, and it lets you make neat piles of the leaves or dump them into yard bags (use a big funnel).

If you already have a riding mower you can buy them as a trailer attachment, and there are powered varieties that have enormous capacity, for the big exurban lawns.
posted by dhartung at 12:20 AM on October 14, 2008

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