Tools you can use for fall cleanup

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Sep. 26, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Gathering up a yard full of leaves in the fall is one of the most tedious jobs I know. Almost anyone would rather be picking apples or pumpkins, heading to a football game or enjoying a New England leaf-peeping adventure than clearing Mother Nature's mess from the lawn.

You could look at fall cleanup as an opportunity for someone to give you a present. If you don’t have a convenient birthday in the fall, maybe it's time to give something to yourself. Here are several tools that would make your fall easier to deal with.

I have found a leaf vacuum to be a very handy outdoor tool. Mine is a combination leaf-blower and vacuum. It has a cylindrical snout that sucks in the leaves, and it is fitted with a canvas bag to hold the leaf debris. I call it debris because it not only gathers up the leaves, it also shreds them into small pieces so I can add them to my compost pile.

The small particle size helps the leaves break down faster. Adding some green material out of the garden or some kitchen scraps creates a good composting mix. Add a little moisture, turn it over in place, or rotate the compost barrel if you have one.

That brings me to another gift suggestion. For those of us who have labored with an unruly compost heap, either piling it up, capturing it in a wire cylinder or a makeshift bin, the convenience and tidiness of a compost tumbler would be a welcome present. I have an ongoing compost heap near my vegetable garden, but it never seems to get large enough to generate what I need, and it takes a long time for the material to break down into that nice, rich, black soil amendment.

A leaf-blower is another way to gather up your leaves. But it seems to protract the job. You can only amass a pile of a certain size before you have to do something with them. (No, it is not okay to blow the leaves into someone else's yard!)

Another very beneficial tool at this time of year is a mulching mower. Many existing lawn mowers have such a capability, and mulching grass and even leaves is considered beneficial for your lawn. Many homeowners like to blow the grass clippings into oblivion, and I see lawn service crews doing the same thing. You may not really like the sight of pulverized leaves on top of your grass. But, like grass clippings, these little fragments get down to the soil layer, and decay over the winter.

A mulching blade for your existing mower might be a good yet inexpensive present to yourself this fall. Not only do you get a present; your lawn gets one, too. And you get your work done faster.

Other inexpensive tools include a wide leaf rake and a durable, lightweight tarpaulin for collecting and moving leaves. The big plastic leaf rakes are the best. I have one that I prefer; it's about 30 inches wide. I also have a metal-tined rake that I usually give to someone else to use. Those sharp tines poke through the leaves, and every once in a while you have to stop and clean it out.

Raking leaves in large piles is my least favorite way of disposing of them. If you don’t mind it, then buying yourself a sturdy but lightweight tarp will help you cart those piles away. Many communities conduct leaf removal programs, which require that you either bag your leaves and tote them to the curb or haul the loose leaves to the road so the collection crew can suck them up with their vacuum trucks.

If the town gets to the leaf piles before the first snowfall, that's great. If they don't, then the snowplows mix them with snow and deposit them on the green belt by your sidewalk. The same is true of your neat and tidy bagged leaves.

Yet another tool that many people don't give themselves is a wood chipper. Leaves come off trees. Trees have branches. And as you rake the leaves, you are sure to tangle your rake them. It is definitely not a good idea to use your mulching lawn mower to mulch branches. The wood chipper is the correct tool for the job. Processing those branches through a chipper provides you with mulch that can be added to your compost, or used around your flower beds.

I don't know how you feel about it, but I wouldn't mind receiving any of these tools as a present. And since my birthday comes in springtime, I just might give myself one this fall.

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