Here's the best news you'll read all day: You should never rake your fall leaves again. That's right, leaf removal is a waste of time, effort, and money (if you hire someone to do it). And here's the clincher -- it's actually bad to remove leaves from your lawn. All of which means you can more or less hang up your rake for good. Fabulous, right?
"There's no good reason to rake leaves," says Jeremy DeLisle, program coordinator for the University of New Hampshire Extension Education Center in Goffstown, NH. It's not just an onerous task for you, it puts a burden on your entire community. In fact, the town of Irvington, NY -- which spends $100,000 each year on leaf disposal and collection -- has started running an annual " Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" campaign to encourage residents to keep their leaves to themselves.
"Leaf collection, hauling, and disposal is a huge annual cost to every municipality in our tree-lovely county!" the town's website says."Too often these curbside leaf piles spread out in the roadway, or the bags tip over, washing leaves into the street, clogging storm drains, and making roads dangerous for driving."
While leaves in the wrong place can be a risky nuisance, leaves in the right place can benefit your lawn -- and the environment.
"They're a valuable natural resource," says DeLisle. "If you take a few steps to manage leaves, they can go a long way toward helping and improving your lawn."
Take a look at some better ideas for leaf removal, no rake required.
Mulch your leaves with a mower
Unfortunately, you can't just let leaves lie there completely untouched -- they are likely to smother and kill the grass underneath. But there is an alternative: Mow over your leaves right where they fall. The pulverized shards will fall beneath the blades of grass without suffocating your lawn. Instead, they will decompose and fertilize your lawn, making it greener than ever next spring.
The catch? You'll need a mower with a mulcher. Most new mowers have a mulch setting that makes the pulverizing process a no-brainer. Or, you can fit older mowers with a high-lift mulching blade for $30 to $170. Make sure the leaves are dry when you mow over them, and mow slowly, making two or three passes to shred the leaves completely.
Create leaf compost
Ah, compost -- the other black gold. Dead leaves are the perfect ingredient for compost, since they're rich in carbon, which fuels decomposition. So either collect your leaf mulch in a bag as you mow, or throw your collected leaves into a shredder or chipper, then add the shards to your compost pile (shredded leaves will decompose faster than whole ones).
Don't have a compost pile? Then now's the perfect time to create one. It's easy: Just blow whole or shredded leaves into a corner of your yard or garden, or bag the leaves in black plastic, and let nature work its decomposing magic. In the spring, turn the partially decomposed leaf mold into garden beds, which will condition and nourish the soil.
Protect your plants
Leaves can also help protect your trees and plants. That's because during winter, they're vulnerable to high winds and low temperatures, which can desiccate and freeze roots. To protect your green things, pile up mulched leaves around the base of shrubs and trees, which will moderate ground temperatures and prevent water loss. Just don't let the leaves touch trunks, which can promote rot and disease.