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The 411 on Leaf Removal

The 411 on Leaf Removal

Most of us enjoy seeing the trees explode into a kaleidoscope of red, gold, and orange. But those vibrant leaves will soon cover your lawn. We've written several posts about why proper leaf removal is critical for the health of your lawn. But today we're diving deeper into the subject of leaf cleanup. Leaf removal seems straightforward on the surface. You rake leaves into piles, bag them and wait for your city to pick them up. But the leaf removal and disposal processes aren't that simple.

Should You Clean Leaves from Your Lawn?

The answer is yes if you're concerned about your lawn's health and appearance.  Some people have taken a different stance on whether to cleanup leaves or leave them alone. The prospect of not having to clean leaves is exciting for some people.  But is it possible to maintain a healthy lawn with thick piles of leaves smothering it? Traditional wisdom says that thick piles of leaves will suffocate grass.

Against Extensive Leaf Removal

The argument against extensive leaf removal encompasses these arguments:

  • Leaf disposal produces excessive waste, especially in landfills.
  • Leaves left to cover lawns will break down and add nutrients to the soil.
  • Leaf piles are a natural habitat for some wildlife. 

In a blog post by the National Wildlife Federation, "What to do With Fallen Leaves," David Mizejewski argues that leaves should "stay where they fall." Mizejewski explains that many wildlife species use leaf piles to lay eggs or find food.

Mizejewski does agree that thick layers of leaves will smother the grass underneath. But he also takes an environmentally-conscious stance about lawns, stating, "the best way to solve this problem is to reduce the size of your lawn, which is an ecological dead-zone that supports almost no living things." Reducing lawn-size isn't practical or desirable for everyone.

For Leaf Removal

Many people believe that leaf removal is vital to lawn health. Those who favor leaf removal argue that:

  • The weight of wet leaves can suffocate grass.
  • Moisture builds up under the leaves and causes a host of fungal diseases like snow mold and brown patch.
  • Leaf removal displaces invasive insects and pests.

An article by the Virginia Cooperative Extension confirms that leaf removal is essential because "a thick layer of leaves blocks sunlight, reducing turf growth."

The Consensus

There is a happy middle. If you want to maintain a healthy lawn without producing excessive waste, you have options.

Best Way to Get Rid of Leaves?

Now that you understand that leaf cleanup is vital to lawn health, you need to know the best way to get rid of leaves.  If you're concerned about waste as well as lawn health, there are a few good ways to get rid of leaves. Here are four options:

Raking

Raking is the most common way to remove leaves from your lawn. There are some hacks to make raking easier, such as raking against the wind or raking leaves onto a tarp.

You can rake and bag the leaves. Or you can compost the leaves, which we will talk about more later. Raking is a physically-intensive option, especially if you have a large yard. But if your yard is small, raking is cheap and effective. 

Mulch

One of the most popular ways to get rid of leaves is to mulch them. Mulching is straightforward. Run over leaves with a lawnmower to shred them and leave a light layer on the ground. Some lawnmowers even have a mulching setting.

Remember not to leave too much leaf material on the ground, as it can suffocate the grass. If you have thick piles of leaves, you should rake or blow leaves before mulching. Mulching is an easy way to break up leaves, without waste. The shredded leaves will break down and add nutrients back into the soil.

Compost

The EPA defines compost as " organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow." Leaves are a great organic material to add to a compost bin. Composting leaves is a long-term and beneficial method. But it isn't the most straightforward option.

Composting isn't as simple as mulching or raking but can prove beneficial for your lawn.  You'll need to collect leaves, shred them, and add them to a compost bin. The article," Composting Leaves in Garden: Learn The Benefits Of Leaf Compost" by Bonnie L. Grant states that "you also need a balance of carbon, which is the leaf litter, and nitrogen." Nitrogen refers to "green material" like grass or food waste. Like mulching, composting is environmentally-friendly and good for lawn health.

Air Blower

An air blower, or leaf blower, is another option for leaf removal. Just as you would rake leaves onto a tarp, you can blow leaves onto a tarp. A backpack air blower might be beneficial to those with large yards or lawn care enthusiasts or professionals. They offer quick and efficient leaf cleanup. As with raking, you can bag leaves, compost leaves, or mulch leaves.

Should You Hire A Professional to Do Leaf Cleanup?

Now that you know common ways to remove leaves, you need to know whether to do it yourself or hire someone. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to hire a lawn care company to do leaf removal. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before deciding?

Do I Have Time to Remove Leaves from My Lawn?

Consider your schedule. Raking leaves isn't a quick or easy job. And if you find that your weekly responsibilities prevent you from doing the chore, your lawn might suffer as a result. 

How Much Does Leaf Removal Cost?

On the flip side, hiring a lawn care company isn't always cheap. Prices vary by location and lawn size.  The cost includes labor, equipment, and leaf disposal. Is not worrying about leaf cleanup worth spending the extra money?

Do I Have the Right Leaf Removal Tools?

Professional lawn care companies have access to more efficient equipment. They have bigger lawnmowers, air blowers, and trucks that suck up piles of leaves. Lawn care companies can get the job done faster, and, arguably, better.

The Leaf Lowdown

How you choose to remove leaves is your choice, whether you hire someone or do it yourself. And leaf disposal presents even more options.  If you're environmentally-conscious, you can compost leaves or mulch leaves. But traditional wisdom still stands leaf cleanup is a matter of lawn health.

How do you plan to remove leaves? What are your thoughts on leaf removal?

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