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Living Space: 7 essential leaf-raking tips to make your fall cleanup so much easier

Megan Hughes, BHG.com on

Trees and shrubs in all their brilliant fall finery are an amazing sight to behold. But those color-drenched leaves eventually make their way to the ground, where you may find them much less welcome.

Raking leaves is at the top of most fall garden to-do lists, and it can be a rather labor-intensive and time-consuming chore. But dealing with fallen leaves doesn’t have to be a pain (sometimes literally).

When you know how to rake properly, or even how to avoid raking altogether, you’ll have more time to enjoy a final bonfire of the season or one last backyard football game before the snow flies. Use these leaf-raking tips to make quick work of your fall cleanup.

1. Do you really need to rake?

Leaves have nutrients, which can be recycled into your soil. The problem arises when they’re piled too thick, which can smother your lawn and smaller garden plants. But how many is too many? University researchers developed guidelines to make it easy to know if you need to rake or not. If less than 50% of your lawn is blanketed with leaves, you don’t need to rake, but it’s recommended that you run your lawn mower over the leaves to shred them. More than 50% leaf coverage? Time to get out the rake!

2. Run your lawn mower.

 

For lawns with 50% leaf coverage or less, use your lawn mower to help break down the leaves and return nutrients and organic matter to the lawn. Simply run your mower over the leaves. A couple of passes might be necessary to get a fine chop, especially if you have larger leaves like those of maples, oaks and sycamores. Small leaf pieces will settle between grass blades, where they’ll decompose over time. If your mower has a bagging attachment, you can use it to easily collect the leaves instead. Then add them to a compost pile, use them as garden mulch around plants that need winter protection or dispose of them through your area’s yard waste channel.

3. Wait for all the leaves to fall.

It might be tempting to get a jump-start on raking and begin as soon as leaves start to drop. But remember, a few leaves on the lawn aren’t going to hurt anything. Instead, save yourself some time by waiting until most of the leaves from your trees and shrubs are on the ground. Then break up the work into segments by raking one section of the lawn at a time.

4. Pick the right raking tools.

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