The Greener View: Lawn Rakes
I always appreciate feedback to my articles. Recently, I replied to an older gentleman about using a leaf blower instead of the labor-intensive rake that he had been using. Several people thought I didn't give rakes enough love, and a few thought they had a better alternative by using a mulching mower.
They said things like: "I felt like the rake got cheated a bit. There are important positive aspects of rakes that would have been great to include and educate people about." And: "I have used both for years, but mulching blades for my mower have been the best investment to save time and work." Finally: "If there are too many leaves to leave mulched on the lawn, we rake the excess and put them in our composter."
Let's set the record straight, I use all three. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses. Rakes are easy to use. Rakes are great for big leaves and young people. They don't pollute the air, and they don't make too much noise. Both points are very important to many people.
On the other hand, rakes don't work well on small leaves such as those from a honeylocust. They damage grass plants, and they can even rip them out of the ground in shady lawns. Rakes not only damage the grass plants but also move bits of soil and other debris that can infect the damaged plants with diseases.
Hand-held leaf blowers can be battery-, electric- or gas-powered. They move leaves easily on many surfaces, but the weaker blowers can't move big piles or wet leaves easily. Gas-powered blowers can work at long distances from the power source. Based on their power source, they pollute the air in different locations. They emit sounds at various levels. The lower-pitched gas blower is much less annoying to me than the high-pitched battery-operated blower.
Powerful blowers operated with a heavy hand can blow the surface of the ground between grass plants clean. Small sticks, mulch and other organic matter can be blown off flower beds with the leaves. This clean soil surface is not healthy for the plants, beneficial insects or microorganisms.
Mulching mowers are great at creating small pieces of leaves that filter into the grass. Mowers can be human-, battery-, electric- or gas-powered, and like the blowers, they have various levels of noise. All four types of power create pollution at different locations.
Thick swaths of leaf mulch left on the lawn can kill grass plants. Every time a lawn mower operates on a lawn, it can cause soil compaction.
It is often like comparing apples to oranges when looking at the general categories of rakes, blowers and mowers. The decision on which to use will be based on personal choice and considering how big of an area needs to be cleaned, the number of trees, the person's ability to use the tool, the closeness to neighbors, what kind of pollution creation will be tolerated and what you want to do with the leaves after they are collected.
For instance, the stronger a blower and mower is, the more dust and microscopic debris it tosses into the air. So, a strong mower can throw more debris into the air than a weak blower.
Most small gas engines are two-cycle, meaning they burn oil with the gas. This creates more pollution than a four-cycle engine that has a separate oil and gas system. Toro and other manufactures of lawn mowers make four-cycle lawn mower engines that pollute less than similarly powered lawn mowers with two-cycle engines.
Like I said earlier, I use all three tools for different purposes. I try to use the least-polluting tool first. I always keep all my leaves with my leaf vacuum mulcher. I use them as mulch in the landscape, as insulation around potted plants that I am storing for the winter and in my compost pile.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.