Fall Leaves: Rake, Blow or Mulch?

fall leaves

Fall leaves certainly are beautiful in this neck of the woods. At least they are while they are still on the trees. Not so much when they cover every inch of your lawn! If they don’t get removed from the lawn, they will smother the grass making it weaker in the spring. So, should you rake them, blow them or mulch them?

Raking Fall Leaves

Raking is the old-fashioned way to rid your lawn of leaves. Some (my husband included) still swear by this method. We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses years ago to haul the raked leaves to a designated leaf (AKA compost) pile. This procedure works well if you have an area to store the leaves. (which we do at the cottage) I don’t mind raking but when we are talking about a huge property, a blower or mulcher is called for in my humble opinion. These contraptions also create great mulch for gardens and/or compost bins or piles. If you don’t have a blower or mulcher, you can run the leaves over several times with your lawn mower, then rake the crumbled pieces onto your gardens or into a compost bin.

Leaf Blowers with or without Mulcher Options

I first purchased a leaf blower several years ago, early on in my career of looking after peoples’ gardens and yards. I loved it so much I was collecting leaf-filled yard waste bags from my neighbours’ curbs to mulch. I love mulched leaves on my gardens. So much so that one of my neighbours gives me his mulch too.

Precautions

Most models are quite noisy so earplugs are recommended. The first time I used one without ear protection I wound up with a massive headache.

Although the models I’ve used have all been electric, there are battery-operated or gas-powered, cordless options available. If you are using a long extension cord or several combined (for large properties) be sure your extension cord is a heavy-duty one. According to Copper.org:

An improperly sized extension cord can cause a tool or appliance motor to burn out if allowed to run for too long. It can also cause a dangerous situation if it overheats.

Blower and Mulcher Brands

Toro Ultra Plus

I liked the Toro but found switching the blower to the mulcher tedious. You had to remove one attachment and trade it for the other. This switching back and forth was not only time-consuming but hard on my arthritic wrists.

The bag that held the mulched leaves had a zipper on the bottom to contain the leaves. This zipper was handy, but if you forgot to close it before you started the motor for the next batch, the leaves would fly all over. I did that a few times.

When I graduated to a fancier blower and mulcher, I donated my Toro to the hospice I volunteer at.

fall leaves
Toro Ultra Plus

Worx Leaf Blower and Mulcher

My next garden toy was made by Worx. I prefer it because you can switch from mulching to blowing leaves with a simple turn of a dial. Very convenient and much easier on my wrists. It too has a zippered mulch bag, so the “don’t forget the zipper” rule applies here too.

fall leaves

Black and Decker

The most recent blower and mulcher I’ve used is a black and decker model. It was given to me by the son of a client after she passed away. I took it to the cottage as I had one at home.

This model is quite impressive although it is now an older model. It seems more powerful than the others in both blower and mulcher mode. This is awesome while you are using it but it means the unit is heavier. I could feel the workout in my forearm muscles the next day. And the arthritic wrists well before that.

You do have to switch between the options by removing and installing the motor component but the process is so simple even I can do it without complaining. There is no zipper on the mulch bag. Instead, you insert the bag onto the mulcher head with a plastic latch. In theory, this works well but the latch seems flimsy, so after several batches of mulch it was getting loose. I’ve noticed the new models don’t have this latch.

Another downside to this model is that it has no shoulder strap on the mulch bag to distribute the weight of the tool as well as the bag of mulch. The other two models had a strap, perhaps that is why my forearm muscles and wrists felt the workout with this one.

Black and Decker

Conclusions

It doesn’t matter which method you use to remove the fall leaves from your lawn. Just be sure to do so, your lawn will thank you in the spring with a quick recovery from winter stress. So will your gardens and compost pile if you add the mulched leaves to them.

mulched leaves

Mulched leaves, great for your garden

Mulched leaves are great for your garden.  They are an inexpensive way to amend your soil and protect tender perennials and shrubs from the wrath of Mother Nature over the winter months.  If your soil is really poor, add a layer of composted manure over top the mulched leaves.  The soil in my Kanata (Ottawa suburb) gardens was predominantly clay, so this fall treatment has really helped over the years.  Your reward will be visible next spring and summer when your gardens look gorgeous.

A previous post described my Toro leaf mulcher and blower. I have since become disenchanted with it as my (old) arthritic wrists cannot handle prying one attachment off to replace with the other to switch from a leaf blower to a leaf mulcher.  This season I purchased a Worx 3-in-1 model of blower, vacuum and mulcher that switches from one action to the other with a simple flick of a dial.  Very easy on the wrists!  No more carrying around a bag of accessories, another awesome feature of this new and improved model.

mulched leaves
3-in-1 action

As with any brand of leaf mulchers, you must wait until the leaves are dry before you attempt to vacuum and mulch them.  Wet leaves will just clog up the motor, resulting in a loud whining noise.  Wet or damp leaves also make for larger pieces of mulched leaves instead of the incredibly fine mulch that is yet another great feature of the Worx model.  Another thing to avoid while vacuuming and mulching is twigs or sticks.  They too will clog the motor, not to mention damage it.

With low overnight temperatures and lots of rain keeping the leaves wet, perfectly mulched leaves was no easy feat these past few weeks.  I found the easiest way around this dilemma was to blow leaves into a single layer in a sunny spot to dry before mulching them.

After discovering how much easier my new Worx model is to use, I donated my old model to the hospice that I volunteer at.  They need it for the blowing function to keep dried leaves from gathering at their main entrance.  If they do decide to switch to mulcher mode, it should not be a problem as the groundskeepers there have stronger wrists than I do.

Buy your new Worx 3-in-1 leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher today, you won’t be disappointed.

Please take a moment to check out my other blog for random thoughts on everything except gardening.

Toro Ultra Plus, My new Garden Toy

I love my new garden toy.  It’s a Toro Ultra Plus leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher all in one.  I spent a few hours in a client’s garden today sucking up leaves with the vacuum attachment, then dumping the leaf bag full of finely mulched leaves onto her gardens.  I then covered the mulched leaves with a commercially prepared triple mix of soil, peat moss and compost.  This procedure is a great method for improving the quality of the soil in your gardens, especially if your soil is full of clay like most soil here in the Kanata suburb of Ottawa…

I also discovered, inadvertently,  if you forget to zip up the leaf bag after emptying it, the leaves you suck up off the lawn will get mulched as they enter the bag, then go right through the bag back onto the lawn.  I might try this on my own lawn, as mulched leaves are great for lawns too!

I researched this type of garden tool before purchasing the Toro Ultra Plus.  I chose an electric one as I did not want to be hauling oil or gasoline around in my van.  The battery operated ones were an option, but we have several battery operated tools at the cottage and the batteries always seem to need recharging, not to mention the batteries are expensive. The electric Toro Ultra Plus that I decided on was awesome to use; not too heavy (about 10 pounds), easy to assemble, and not too loud. The mulch came out incredibly fine; I estimate one bag of mulched leaves is the equivalent of at least 4 regular lawn bags.

With the beautiful weather we are experiencing this week, I hope to get a few gardens prepared for spring using this method, including my own. Perhaps I will do the lawn too…