Making Fall Garden Clean Up Great Again!

Posted by Vivian McNeil on

What's your feeling when you get to the end of the summer? Are you planning a big Labor Day BBQ? Maybe it’s a last-ditch effort to take your family on a small vacation before you send off the kids to school? Whatever it is, I will tell you what I am thinking of, the fall garden cleanup. Every year I speculate whether to hire a gardener to do the job. In fact, my spouse always tells me to empower others to get the household chores done.

About two years ago we hired a local guy for $150 to do the yard leaf removal. He blew out the leaves from the shrubs and even got the leaves off the mulch without blowing it all over the grass. Our front yard was looking fantastic and I was feeling good about my decision. Then I see he begins to wrap up the tarp with all the rubbish on it. I couldn’t believe it. The crew didn’t even open the door to my backyard. I started walking over to the crew chief and got ready for the showdown. I cleared my throat, and said, “Are you finished already? You haven’t yet done the backyard?”. This was the moment that this guy was waiting for, where he would attempt to upsell me and began to respond with the following: “Did you not read the advertisement? The $150 fall cleanup was limited to up to 6,000 square feet, which your backyard exceeds?”. Turns out he wanted an additional $250 for the complete property clean up. The fall yard cleanup ended up costing me $400! I told my spouse that this year I will be doing the fall cleanup myself.

Top 5 Fall Clean Up Tips for Your Garden

It’s a random Sunday and your favorite baseball team is out of playoff contention which gives you plenty of time to attack the yard. You go to Home Depot and make sure you're fully equipped with a rake, and leaf blower. As the lone ranger you scan the property and see wet leaves absorbed in the lawn, mulch mixed with pine needles, and mounds of dried dirt. On top of that, there is a 30-mph easterly wind that seems to keep messing up the pile of leaves you’ve just raked. These are just a few of the obstacles that fall cleanup dare devils might encounter.

What should I do with all the leaves in my yard?

Before blowing anything it’s best to survey the property and make sure that you identify all the areas where there is an accumulation of leaves. The last thing you want is to spend a whole day doing fall yard cleanup only to find a bunch of old leaves under your porch. Once you get an idea of where the various pockets of leaves and shrubs are, it’s time to decide where you’re going to situate the main pile of leaves. Keep in mind that if your pile is too big, it’s going to be quite challenging to dispose of it. Instead of making one heap, try dividing the property into three or four piles where you can gather the leaves and shrubs. After they are all blown out from all the nooks and crannies you want to bag them in a 100 gallon lawn and leaf bags. Consolidating the leaves into larger bags will mean you making less trips to the curbside. Be sure to check with the county clerk of what is the preferred disposal method for leaves and shrubs. The last thing you need is to compile all the rubbish only to find out that the township won’t take your leaf bags.

What are the ways to dispose of leaves and shrubs?

Once the leaf piles are complete, it’s time to cram them into a bag. The Home Depot offers a 30 gal. Paper Lawn and Refuse Bags for a little over two dollars for five bags. These are great for smaller properties and are also environment friendly. The only disadvantage is that once they are full you will need to start another bag. This means that you won't be able to pack the leaves down more than the pre-cram capacity. I recommend using 64-gallon trash bags which gives you ample space to get a significant amount of leaves in there. I would even venture to say that one can cram up to 90 gallons of leaves and shrubs when they are packed down. Just be sure to leave enough bag flap to allow a strong knot atop the bag. If you can’t seem to get a handle on the bag, try using jumbo rubber bands for a durable bag closure.

Is it OK to leave leaves on flower beds?

Leaves sometimes get caught in the flower bed that you can’t get out with a rake or leaf blower. It may be annoying to get on your hands and knees to get rid of them, but does this chore really need to be done? The truth is that there is much confusion when it comes to leaving leaves. The National Wildlife Federation recommends leaving leaves which create their own mini ecosystem. As the leaves breakdown and become moldy, they form into a natural mulch which can be used as a rich fertilizer for soil. So, you’re thinking “Great, put away the rake and blower this year and sit back and watch preseason football”. Let’s find out when you can leave your leaves and when you should not.

Should I rake dead leaves off my lawn?

The answer to this debate is both yes and no. Raking your leaves, the traditional way is by removing leaves from your property, putting them in clear yard waste bags and sending them off to the landfill. Since the leaves cannot decompose like they would in their natural environment, they release a greenhouse gas called methane. In fact, leaves that are sent to landfills make up 13% of the United States solid waste per year. The green friendly way would be to break down your leaves, then rake, and use as a natural fertilizer for perennials. Leaving leaves on your lawn can block out natural sunlight which can result in unattractive yellow and brown spots in the spring.

To leave the leaves or not, that is the question.

The final answer is to not leave your leaves on your lawn but to recycle them. Before you bag them into contractor garbage bags make sure that you break them down. This can be done by running your lawn mower over them which makes it easier for the leaves to be used as fertilizer for your garden. Once they are broken down into pieces, the leaves are converted into a nitrogen rich earthworm castings. This adds nitrogen and valuable microbes to the soil. Now, you can start scattering them in your flower beds and vegetable patches. If you have any leftover of the leafy fertilizer, you can store it and allow it to become moldy. This allows the leaves to become a rich mulch compost which can prove to be highly beneficial for your plants when springtime arrives. The molding process enriches it with great nutrients that will work wonders for your soil.

What is the easiest way to rake leaves?

Even if you have a leaf blower that blew the bulk of the leaves you still are going to need a rake. There are many areas on your property that the blowing will not get to. In addition, not all of us are going to be lugging around a gas-powered leaf blower that can weight 20 plus pounds. Most homeowners choose a battery powered or corded leaf blower which still leaves a significant amount of leaves around. That means you're going to need a good rake to do the rest of the work. Here are some of the types of rakes which can be used to rake leaves.

  • Plastic leaf rakes are lightweight and make your job a bit easier. Since the claws are plastic and thick you can gather a decent amount of leaves which means fewer sweeps. The only challenge is making sure that it doesn’t fall or get stepped on which can easily crack one of the claws.
  • Metal broom rakes have always been a homeowner favorite. None of the leaves get left behind since there are strong steel claws. In addition, the dead grass gets pulled along which makes room for the new grass shoots to sprout in the spring. You might need to replace the rake after the claws become bent from the wear and tear.
  • Plastic hybrid rakes allow you to sweep the leaves quite simply. Since the tines are close together you can get into those bushy areas where the leaves tend to get trapped. The only disadvantage is that since the tines are so close together, they tend to get clogged with leaves. This means your going to be stopping and pushing off the leaves that are stuck.

It really depends on what rake you're going to be comfortable with and what your lawn can handle. If you're dealing with a front lawn that has many bald spots like mine, you're going to want to use a rake which is not as aggressive in order not to pull out too much grass. Seniors who like to rake the leaves should try to find a lightweight rake with a plastic head and carbon pole. Once your leaf piles are ready, make sure to get the right garbage bag size for the leaves on your property. The last thing you need is for your neighbors to get upset about how your curb side looks sprinkled with garbage bags. When it comes to packing the leaves and shrubs into bags, “don’t populate just consolidate”. Your neighbors and township will thank you.

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