There’s nothing quite like the colors of fall leaves – when they’re still on the trees that is.
For many of us, once those leaves are on the ground, the beauty is lost and all we see is an arduous task awaiting us.
Luckily, I have some tips that will make fall leaf removal a breeze.
Read on to find out the easiest ways to remove leaves from your lawn and what you should do with them after.
- Quick Read
- Why Remove Fall Leaves?
- 8 Tips for Easy Fall Leaf Removal
- What Not to Do
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- Removing fall leaves is essential for the health of your lawn. Leaving leaves in place can lead to smothering which will eventually kill the grass.
- The easiest way to remove fall leaves is with a mulching mower. The leaves can then be used as mulch on your garden beds or added to your compost.
- Alternatively, raking onto a tarp, using a leaf blower, or a leaf vacuum can be effective.
- Just remember, you shouldn’t be sending your fall leaves to the land fill. Instead, start a compost pile or use them as mulch.
Why Remove Fall Leaves?
Firstly, let’s just clear up why we should be removing the leaves in the first place. After all, no one sweeps the forests, right?
You might be tempted to let nature run its course and leave the leaves where they fall. But, there are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t do that.
A thick layer of leaves left on your lawn will get wet when it rains and form a sticky mat that will block light and air from reaching your grass. More than a 10-20% coverage for an extended period of time is bad news for the grass. Left long enough, this will actually kill your grass.
A permanently damp environment with no air circulation is also a recipe for diseases and pests. They might not necessarily be problems for your lawn, but those diseases can be problems for other trees and shrubs in your garden.
Then, of course, there is the fact that those leaves can be put to good use elsewhere in your garden.
Shredded leaves make excellent mulch and are essential additions to a healthy compost, worm farm, raised bed or lasagna garden bed.
But raking up leaves is exhausting! Are there easier ways?
This list of tips for fall leaf cleanup will give you some good alternatives.
8 Tips for Easy Fall Leaf Removal
1. Wait Until it’s Dry
Raking up wet leaves makes an already tiring job significantly harder. Wet leaves are much heavier, and of course, you’ll likely get wet too.
But it’s not just hard work, it could also be damaging for your lawn. For the same reasons you shouldn’t mow a wet lawn, you shouldn’t rake up wet leaves.
Grass is much more vulnerable to being torn and bruised when it’s wet, and then becomes more susceptible to disease as a result.
2. Mow with a Mulching Mower
This is by the far the best way to remove leaves from your yard.
If you mow at a time when your lawn needs mowing anyway then you’re hitting two birds with one stone. And, mowing a lawn isn’t as physically taxing as raking leaves.
But the best part is that the leaves get shredded for you and so are all ready to be used as mulch or to be added to your compost or worm farm.
Many lawnmowers are mulching mowers, but even if yours isn’t, mowing over fallen leaves with a catcher is still an excellent way to gather them up.
They can then be emptied directly into sacks or into your compost pile. (Un-shredded leaves will break down in your compost, they’ll just take a little longer.) Some shredded leaves can also be left on your lawn to greatly benefit lawn health with their added nutrients.
Many people pay landscapers to get rid of their leaves, and then pay the same landscapers to put mulch on their gardens. Using a mulching mower is a much more efficient process and might actually save you some money!
Raking is still a perfectly reasonable option, especially if you don’t have back problems and appreciate getting a little exercise in with your yard work. However, the main tip here is to make sure you invest in a decent rake.
Cheap plastic rakes will break easily and the leaves often get stuck in the tines. Investing in a good quality metal rake with a long wooden handle will make your raking jobs much more enjoyable and you’ll have a beautiful tool that will last you many years.
4. Use a Tarp
One of the best leaf removal tips is to make use of a tarp.
Once you’ve raked or blown your leaves into a pile, you still have to transfer them to their final destination, whether that’s a sack or your compost pile. If you rake or blow them onto a tarp, then you’ve cut out, or at least made the second step in the process much easier.
The tarp can simply be gathered up at the edges and used to transport the leaves, or it can make funneling the leaves into a sack much easier.
There are even tarps available that are specifically designed for this purpose, with slightly raised edges to keep the leaves in place.
5. Use a Leaf Blower
Leaf blowers are an option if you have back problems and can’t rake, or are clearing leaves from hard surfaces like driveways or paths.
They are not the most efficient machines, after all, leaves are light and float easily, so often the leaf blower just causes them to fly up in the air. But in some instances, they can be useful. Just be sure to choose a calm, windless day.
Have a read of our guide to the different types of leaf blowers if you’re going to take this route as it’s worth understanding the pros and cons of battery-powered, corded and gas-powered.
6. Use a Leaf Vac
A much better alternative to a leaf blower is a leaf vacuum. These machines look like leaf blowers but instead of blowing the leaves around, they suck them up and bag them for you.
If you’re keen on this idea, check out our guide to the best commercial leaf vacuums.
7. Don’t Wait to Get Started
Like any job, leaving it until it’s really late in the day just makes everything harder. And by late in the day, I mean late in the season.
Clearing fall leaves isn’t necessarily a once per year job. It’s much easier to stay on top of it and clear the leaves that have accrued every few weeks or after a particularly windy night.
It’s also pretty challenging to aerate a lawn that is covered with leaves, but aeration is an important fall lawn job if you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain.
Using a lawn care calendar can be a great way to stay on top of your various yard duties year-round without getting behind.
8. Get the Kids Involved
Last but not least, raking leaves is something young children can find satisfying, especially if there is some pocket money to be earned. It’s just challenging enough to make them feel like they’ve achieved something tangible, and their little backs are much more tolerant of the raking process!
What Not to Do
These are the tips for fall leaf removal that you do want to follow. But what shouldn’t you do?
We’ve already talked about why leaving loads of leaves on your lawn isn’t a good idea for lawn health.
But there is something else that is even worse for the environment, and that is bagging up leaves in plastic sacks and sending them to the landfill.
Plastic sacks (or even paper sacks to a degree), don’t let the leaves decompose the way they would naturally. They take far longer to break down, taking up space in the landfill and releasing a significant amount of greenhouse gasses such as methane in the process.
Just like you shouldn’t be sending your grass clippings to the landfill, sending your fall leaves to the landfill is also a big no-no.
If you don’t have a compost pile already, starting one with your fall leaves is the perfect opportunity. This means you also have somewhere to chuck your food scraps and other garden waste too.
A compost heap or tumbler can be well hidden in the corner of your yard and then further down the track, it can return nutrients to your garden to save you buying in fertilizer or commercial compost.
If you’re interested in more eco-friendly tips, have a read of our guide to eco-friendly lawn care before you go.
As you can see, there are multiple ways to deal with fall leaf removal that don’t have to involve hours of raking. A mulching mower is an excellent option, but a regular mower with a catcher works too.
Just remember, even though we should still be removing the fall leaves from our lawns, we shouldn’t be removing them from our yards altogether. Fall leaves are a valuable source of nutrients for the soil and food for earthworms and they only cause harm in the landfill.
I hope you found this article useful! Do you have any tips for fall leaf removal that you think should be on this list? Please let me know, I’d love to include them!