Buying and owning a home for the first time can be a great experience, but it does come with some extra chores. Those same trees that keep our house 10 degrees cooler than nearby houses during the summer are now starting to drop their leaves on our lawn, driveway and roof. Last year, it took my wife and me about 20 hours of work total to rid our yard of every last leaf. (Of course, we didn’t buy a leaf blower until hour #15. Big mistake.) Like snow, one of our favorite childhood playthings (“leaf piles, squeee!”) is now a nuisance to be eliminated as quickly as possible.
If you’re in the same leaf-filled boat as us, here are a few tips that’ll help you make shorter work of those pesky falling tree-stuffs.
- Prepare yourself. No matter what tools you use, removing leaves from your yard will likely be an exhausting task, especially if you make heavy use of a rake. Wear layers of clothes that you can peel off as you feel warmer, do some stretching or warm-up exercises before starting work, and do any raking or lifting with bended knees and not a bended back.
- Get a wide, sturdy plastic or metal rake. Don’t cheap out on a flimsy wooden rake. Spend $15-20 and get a decent plastic or metal rake made of firm material that won’t bend too much. A wider rake will help you cover more area faster.
- Split your leaf clearing into sessions. Unless you only have a couple of small trees on your property, divide your work across several days to minimize the strain on your body. Maybe do one part of the yard one weekend and another part the next, or rake into piles and then save the bagging or pulling to the curb for later. The job will go much faster if you do it without bringing yourself to the point of total exhaustion.
- Check your local leaf-disposing regulations. It seems that every city has a different way of handling leaf disposal. As a kid, we’d see black garbage bags full of leaves piled at the ends of driveways. Now we live in a city that runs collection trucks equipped with massive vacuums; we just need to get our leaves to the curb and they’re whisked away—no bagging necessary. New homeowners: be sure to ask your neighbors or local government for the proper way to prepare your leaves for their final journey.
- Pay a neighborhood kid instead. You really should just disregard all of the above advice and outsource all of your yard clearing to some neighborhood kids. While the job is laborious, it’s also hard to screw up, so children are the perfect
victimshelpers here. Check the prevailing rates in your area for kid-leaf operations, or just find a big dumb teenager who will clear your six acres for $20.
For those do-it-yourselfers, aside from a rake, you’ll probably want to purchase a decent leaf blower if you have a decent chunk of leaf-covered yard. You can drastically cut your leaf cleanup effort by also investing in a good leaf vacuum that chops the leaves into tiny bits. Such a vacuum can turn many bags of leaves into far fewer bags, and it certainly cuts down on the raking you’ll need to do.
There’s a great deal at Amazon.com right now on a well-reviewed Toro Ultra 12 Amp Electric Blower/Vacuum. It does both blowing and vacuuming, and it has a strong metal impeller that can deal with sticks and small rocks while annihilating your leaves. It retails for $100, but it’s on sale for only $55 after a $10 mail-in rebate (PDF) that’s good through October 31, 2007. I just bought one to help make quick work of the three inches of leaves we’ll get in the next two months, so I’ll share my thoughts on it when it arrives.