Yea!! I am so happy to see sunshine two days in a row. It seems that more people I know than ever before are affected negatively by successive days of gloomy, rainy weather. This is especially true for those of us who love to work outdoors. Seeing the yard strewn with leaves makes us anxious to clean it up, even though we know it will look the same in a few days until all the leaves have completed their downward spirals. Are there any shortcuts to keeping the yard and shrubbery areas clean? Of course there are!
Using Blowers in the Yard
One of the easiest ways to remove leaves and debris from the lawn and landscaped areas is to blow them away. Save your breath and use a machine. Using a blower may be a little frustrating at first, but with a little practice, you will learn the benefits to using a side-to-side movement at times and an up-and-down movement at times. The side-to-side motion is useful when moving widely scattered debris forward, and the up-and-down motion works better to move a pile of collected debris. Do not try to use a leaf blower on a windy day unless you just really enjoy exasperation. If the wind is blowing and you absolutely must blow leaves, work with the wind and not against it.
Be courteous. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, it does not matter what time you run your leaf blower; however, if you live in a neighborhood, you will maintain more peaceful relations with your neighbors if you avoid early morning and late evening noise. Speaking of noise, you must wear some form of ear protection. Disposable earplugs are minimally acceptable if you are using a hand-held leaf blower but not a good idea if you are using a backpack model. Muff-style headphones are the best to use, and for less than $40, you can buy a pair that also serves as an AM/FM radio, allowing you to be entertained while you work. For less than $75, you can buy a pair that runs Bluetooth, connecting you to your phone and all its apps. I enjoy catching up on my RadioLab podcasts while I blow the yard, landscaping, and driveway. Also, please protect your eyes with some safety glasses/goggles, which you can purchase for as little as a dollar.
Vacuuming the Lawn
Another easy way to clean the landscape if you have a small yard is a backpack-style wet/dry vacuum. They work great for picking up leaves, straw, twigs, and trash. Simply empty the collected material into a lawn trash bag, and you are done. Using a vacuum can be time consuming, so rely on this method for small areas unless you simply have no other choice. As with the blower, please protect your eyes and ears with proper personal protective equipment.
A not-so-easy but athletically challenging method is the good, old rake. It probably does the cleanest job, and it has many added benefits. You can rake the leaves into piles of mulch around trees, shrubs, and perennials. Raking gives you a good cardio-vascular workout so you can enjoy chocolate cake later; it does not disturb the wildlife; it does not disturb your neighbors. Plus, once you have amassed your huge pile of leaves, you and the kids can jump in and have a grand old time!
To Leave the Leaves or Not to Leave?
Many gardeners are now opting for just leaving the leaves and letting them decompose over the winter. As a worm advocate, I must admit it can be beneficial for the soil and its biome. Here are the pros and cons:
Leaves provide a layer of warmth for soil dwellers.
Leaves provide food for soil dwellers.
Leaves provide nesting material for wildlife.
Leaves suppress weeds.
Leaves fertilize soil.
Leaves look unsightly.
Leaves can harbor disease.
Leaves block sunlight, hindering grass growth.
Wet, compacted leaves damage the lawn.
Leaves clog landfills.
So, the bottom line is: How important is it to you to have a neat-looking lawn? If you do decide to collect your leaves, please compost them properly yourself or take to a location that will compost them. Leaving them to rot in piles can increase the risk of disease developing in your yard, and leaving them to make their way into gutters and streams can produce excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in neighboring waterways.
Now, I just need a little motivation to get started on something before the rain sets in again.