So you want to rake your leaves, huh?
Crimson, burnished gold, rust, and mottled green— entire forests put on festive displays, just for fall. If you’re a die-hard “leaf peeper,” you probably make weekend drives to Appalachia, where hardwood trees are especially vibrant.
But then you come home and discover that your backyard is swamped with fallen leaves— and tourists snapping pictures for Instagram. (It could happen.) Suddenly, Mother Nature isn’t so cool anymore.
Sound familiar? If foliage is mounding into backyard pyramids, act quickly before neighbors start thinking you’re worshiping some sort of sun god. Don’t worry, though. We won’t let you struggle in vain.
Check out these handy lawn maintenance tips:
Get the kid to do it
If you’re a proud parent, odds are you’ve thought about arming Junior with a rake and asking him (or her) to do the dirty work. Seems reasonable, right? After all, the benefits of youthful servitude include:
- On-site installation
- No lawyers attached
But bribing kids into raking and bagging leaves has its down sides, too. For example, five-dollar bills and bubble gum are no longer valid forms of payment. And if Sally and Johnny catch you lazing around watching The Game, expect a sit-down strike or peasant revolt.
Having second thoughts? A professional lawn care company can save you time and grief. What’s more, landscapers will rake your lawn without cutting corners, shoving leaves into a corner, or leaving tools around like booby traps.
Do-it-yourself lawn maintenance
But if you’d rather manage things yourself, that’s great, too! For easier cleanup, we recommend the following do-it-yourself strategies:
- Avoid leaf accumulation. Grass needs the sun for energy and nutrients, even in autumn. In fact, it’s storing up reserves for spring. Wet leaves are even more problematic; thick, sopping mats suffocate grass and— unless you act quickly— kill lawns.
- Rake weekly. Trust us, frequent maintenance saves so much time. And it’s much easier to complete end-of-season fertilization without all that accumulation, too. A good rule of thumb: start raking once 25 percent of your trees start casting leaves.
- Use a tarp. Raise your hand if you’ve raked leaves into gigantic, disheartening ziggurats … and then realized you created a whole new chore. This time, pile yard waste onto a leaf tarp! You won’t believe how much easier it is to bag that foliage.
- Become a mixed-media yard artist. No painter uses a single brush, so why should you limit your landscaping efforts to a rake? Invest in an electric leaf blower (it’s kinder on the environment) for managing dry leaves. For wet foliage, use a wide-angled rake with thin prongs. Voila!
Leaf Management 101
“OK,” you think, “Surely in this day and age there’s something I can do with all of these leaf leftovers.” While you can’t eat them (sorry to disappoint you), there are some earth-friendly yard tips out there, like …
Composting! Your lawn mower might even have a “mulch” setting, so check it out. If so, wait until your lawn is lightly covered with leaves. Then mow ‘em down! You’re really doing 2 chores at once (you eager beaver you), so give yourself a pat on the back for trimming the grass, too. And guess what? Clippings help decompose shredded leaves, so mix everything together.
What’s more, composting provides nourishment for the grass, deters pests, and balances soil pH. It also acts like mulch by preventing excessive evaporation.
Of course, leaf disposal is what most of us do. It’s probably the happiest moment of your autumn yard work, right? Right.
Many folks in northern Virginia ask their counties to haul bagged leaves away. Most have a weight limit (typically no more than 40 pounds per sack), but ask ahead of time.
We also recommend paper bags for leaf collection. For one thing, they’re biodegradable. For another, machines at the landfill don’t have to remove the plastic— a step that saves time, labor, and taxpayer expense. Who knew?
Your county dump is another handy resource, too. Depending on where you live, there’s usually a fee for hauling leaves over and dropping them off.
Lastly, does your property have woods? You’re allowed to scatter your leaves in the forest (if you’re lucky enough to own them; otherwise, you might have to explain yourself to an irate neighbor). Hey, if you got it, flaunt it.
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