Fall is one of the best times of the year. The summer humidity is gone, football is in full swing, and the holidays are right around the corner.
But, there’s one major downside to the fall—most of us have to spend several hours on the weekend picking up the massive amount of leaves that fall on our yards.
Fortunately, after several years of testing different methods, I’ve figured out the best way to pick up leaves for every situation.
In this article, I cover six simple methods to efficiently and effectively clear your lawn of leaves in the fall.
If you only have a minute, here’s a quick summary. Click the links to jump straight to the detailed explanations of each method.
- Method 1: Mulch Them With Your Lawn Mower. The best way to pick up leaves is to not pick them up all. Instead, mulch them with your lawn mower.
- Method 2: Mow and Bag. If you have too many leaves to mulch with your lawn mower, the next best method is to mow them with the grass clipping bag attached.
- Method 3: Blow Them Into a Pile and Bag (or Dump). If there are too many leaves to mow with the bag attached, use a blower to create piles that you can easily pick up or dump.
- Method 4: Rake and Bag (or Dump). If you have a small yard, a standard rake will be your best tool.
- Method 5: Combine Methods. If you use a blower or rake, follow up with your lawn mower to mulch any leaves you missed.
- Method 6: Hire a Professional. There’s no shame in asking for help. After all, time is money.
If you have a scattering of leaves on your lawn, but it’s not entirely covered, the easiest way to clear them is to mulch them with your lawn mower.
Insert the mulch plug and close the side port that is used to discharge grass clippings. As you push the mower over the leaves, its blades will chop the leaves into tiny pieces.
Those pieces will fall on the ground for microorganisms to break down.
Mulching with your mower is the ideal method to clear leaves because it not only takes the least amount of time and effort but, as the tiny pieces of leaves decompose, they add nutrients to your lawn.
If your lawn is completely covered with leaves and you try to mulch them with your mower, you’ll end up with a thick messy layer of chopped up leaf pieces on your lawn. Those pieces will clump together, won’t break down quickly, and will be even more challenging to pick up later.
The mow and bag method is the same as the mulch method, but instead of inserting the mulch plug, attach the lawn mower bag.
As you push the mower over the leaves, its blades will chop them into tiny pieces but, instead of mulching them back onto the lawn, they get stuffed into the bag attachment so that you can easily dump or pour them into leaf bags.
Be sure to adjust your mower to its highest setting to avoid picking up grass. If you don’t, the bag will fill up quickly, and you’ll need to be empty it more frequently.
I love this method because it works whether you have a few leaves or your yard is completely covered.
It requires less effort than raking and, by chopping up the leaves, you’ll use way fewer leaf bags because pieces are more compact than whole leaves.
The downside—if your lawn is completely covered with leaves, you’ll have to empty the bag almost every 50 feet (depending on the size of your bag). Each time the bag fills up, you have to stop the lawn mower and empty it.
I don’t have a place to dump leaves in my yard, so I have to pour the pieces from the lawn mower bag into leaf bags.
The transfer from the lawn mower bag to the leaf bag is the hardest part of this method. It’s challenging to keep the leaf bag open and upright, especially in the wind. Inevitably leaves spill back onto the yard.
If you have a wooded area or compost pile, you can avoid this headache, but you’ll have to walk back and forth from wherever you stop the lawn mower to your dumping area every couple of minutes.
If you have several trees on your property and get inundated with leaves in the fall, you should invest in a quality leaf blower.
There are several leaf blowers on the market, but the one I use and highly recommend is the Husqvarna 125BT, which gets excellent reviews on Amazon. It’s a little bit of an investment. Still, it’s worth every penny because it’s super powerful with 170 MPH Air Velocity and easy to operate with a variable speed throttle and cruise control settings so you can focus your attention on the leaves.
As you go over an area with the leaf blower, instead of blowing everything in a straight line, go in a semi-circle pattern, so the leaves go towards one point.
Once you have a nice pile, it’ll be easy to pick up with a rake.
You don’t need to hold down the throttle to maximum power the whole time. Using short bursts of air is highly effective, and throttling power up and down will give you more control over where the leaves go.
Once you have a decent-sized pile, don’t try to blow it into a bigger pile. Doing so will take more time and effort than simply picking it up. If it’s a windy day, blow across or with the wind. If you blow into the wind, the leaves will fly back in your face.
Some blowers, like the Toro Ultra Electric Blower Vac (view on Amazon), also can vacuum leaves and shred them into a bag.
A leaf vacuum seems like a fantastic tool since it’s built specifically for picking up leaves; however, I’ve found that lawn mowers are much more effective. Why? Because mowers have much larger blades, more powerful engines, and pushing a mower is much easier than holding a machine in your hand.
Most leaf vacuums only work if the leaves are very dry and can only pick up a handful at a time.
The most tried and true way to pick up leaves is to rake them into piles and pick them up or dump them somewhere.
If you have a small yard without many trees, raking is the most practical method. Otherwise, I highly recommend using one of the first three methods.
If your yard is over a third of an acre, raking will take several hours, and by the end of it, you’ll have a very sore back.
My preference is to use a rake only to help pick up piles I’ve created with the blower. However, if I had a smaller yard, investing in a blower would not be worth it. Rakes are much cheaper (this is the best selling rake on Amazon with over 700 reviews).
In most cases, more than one of these methods will be necessary to clear your yard of leaves completely.
If you use method 3 (leaf blower) or method 4 (raking), you likely won’t pick up 100% of the leaves. A small scattering of leftover leaves is the perfect opportunity to use method 1 (mulching with the mower).
Now that you’ve cleared the majority of your yard with your blower or rake, use your mower to shred the remaining leaves and mulch them into the lawn. Your lawn will look immaculate, and the bits and pieces of leaves will nourish the soil with nutrients.
Another great way to combine methods is to use your blower to push the leaves into a general area and then rake them into more defined piles.
In the past, I wasted time trying to create neat piles with the blower when it’s much easier to rake once the leaves are close enough together.
If all else fails, hire a professional landscaper to pick up your leaves.
There’s no shame in asking for help. After all, your time is valuable, and in the fall you should spend it with family, watching football, and eating turkey.
Yard clean-up typically costs between $200 and $600 but varies based on the size of your yard and volume of leaves and debris.
I highly recommend getting free quotes from local landscapers on HomeAdvisor.
How Do You Pick Up Leaves?
Which of these methods have you tried? Which have you found to be the most and least successful? Let us know in the comments below!
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