Autumn is one of my favorite times of year – crisp air, apple cider and leaves in the colors of red, gold, and ocher. As much as I love the colorful leaves and jumping in a big leaf pile, leaf clean up can be a hassle. It doesn’t take very many trees to make you wonder how to get rid of leaves without raking.
Leaf removal is part of most homeowners’ annual tasks, so I want to share the best way to pick up leaves. A rake may be fine if you don’t have many leaves, but it can be time consuming and hard work with even a couple big trees.
The best way to get rid of leaves is with one of several leaf pickup tools. In this article, I will show you the best way to clean up leaves using leaf clean up tools including a mulching mower, a leaf blower, or leaf scoops.
How To Get Rid of Leaves Without Raking
I’ll also discuss why you need to remove or mulch your leaves instead of leaving them where they fall and what you can do with all the leaves you collect to benefit your yard and garden.
Is it OK to Leave Leaves On The Lawn Over Winter?
The short answer is no and here’s why:
- The leaves form an impermeable layer atop the grass. Water, nutrients, and air are prevented from getting to the grass and into the soil. Even when the ground is frozen, it’s important to let things flow.
- Disease and fungus can grow under the leaf layer, using it as protection.
- Depending on your grass type, it may still be growing in autumn and later winter. Even if you don’t see noticeable growth above ground, the roots use sugars produced in the leaves. That sugar is made when the leaf is exposed to the sun.
- Matted leaves can prevent new grass from growing in the spring.
- It looks untidy.
Leaf Collection Tools
The easiest way to rake leaves is to get the right tool for the job. Your average garden rake is fine in some situations, but leaf removal equipment including the best leaf mulcher lawn mower, a powerful backpack leaf blower, or some simple garden leaf scoop hand rakes can help you get rid of leaves without raking quickly and efficiently.
Yard Rake for Lawn Mower
If you already have a lawn mower or lawn tractor, you can get an attachment to pull behind it and pick up your leaves.
The best way to clean up leaves in a large yard is with a lawn sweeper. Using a standard hitch, attach the sweeper to a lawn tractor. In addition to picking up leaves without needing a rake, the lawn sweeper picks up pinecones, small twigs, grass, and other lawn debris and catches it in the hopper. You can dump it right into a compost pile or yard waste can.
See prices and reviews on the Agri-Fab Lawn Sweeper.
If you want to know how to pick up leaves fast and don’t own a yard tractor, you can get a push lawn sweeper. It essentially does the same things as a riding lawn mower rake like the Agri-Fab, but it powered by you.
- The Scotts Push Lawn Sweeper will pick up leaf and grass clippings and is light and easy to use.
- The Agri-Fab Push Lawn Sweeper does about the same thing as the Scotts version, but picks up a little more – like twigs.
Many times you can use a lawn mower for leaves. This may be the best way to mulch leaves, rather than just collect them. Check if your lawn mower has a mulching feature and a bag to collect the shredded leaves. Or read my comprehensive guide to top rated lawn mowers.
Can I Just Mow Over My Leaves?
Mowing over leaves may seem like the best way to remove leaves from yard, and it can be, but there are a few things to consider.
- If your leaves are wet, most mowers won’t do a good job of chopping them up and you need them in little pieces if you are planning to use them as compost or mulch. A specific mulching lawn mower is needed to handle wet or big jobs.
- Be sure to use a grass catcher to pick up the leaf pieces if you don’t want to use them as lawn fertilizer or if you have a lot.
- If you do want to fertilize your lawn and have a good mulcher, the easiest way to pick up leaves might be to leave them right where they are and mulching leaves into lawn.
Keep reading to find out more about using leaves as mulch.
A leaf blower will move leaves wherever you want them to go. Use a leaf blower to gather leaves into a pile for bagging. If you have a larger yard or a big compost pile, you can just blow your leaves directly into the pile and be done with it.
Leaf Vacuum Mulcher
The most fun of the leaf removal tools, in my opinion, is the leaf vacuum mulcher. This all-in-one device can operate as a leaf blower, a leaf vacuum, and a leaf shredder. We like the Toro Ultra Electric Blower Vac and the WORX TRIVAC 3-in-1 Electric Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum for a corded leaf blower mulcher and vacuum.
If you want to turn yourself or your kids into a leaf pick up machine instead of buying the ones reviewed above, consider hand rakes or leaf scoops. These plastic gadgets turn your regular hands into giant hands so you can quickly scoop up leaves.
What Can You Do With Fall Leaves? Six Uses For Autumn Leaves
Leaves are beautiful when they are young and colorful on the trees. However, every autumn our relationship with leaves takes a marked turn as they fall from the trees. It’s time to change this negative into a positive. Autumn leaves have many benefits and not just for gardeners.
No matter how you rake up leaves, you can put them to use. Here are a few suggestions to avoid leaf disposal in a landfill.
Add Leaves to the Compost Pile
Compost piles need “green” and “brown” carbon additions and dead leaves are an excellent “brown”. Use them as a layer between the “green” debris and your compost pile will be quite happy. See my “How to Compost” post for more details on composting and using leaves in compost.
Use Fall Leaves as Mulch
Shred the leaves first so they don’t become an impenetrable mat. (See how to mulch leaves with a leaf collector machine above.) Arrange them around flowerbeds, use them as mulch edge bedding, spread them on winter grass as lawn mulch, and cover your garden with leaves for garden mulch.
Leaf mulch will insulate the soil, help suppress weeds, and assist with water retention. Then, when they decompose, they will feed the soil with nutrients. In spring, you can turn the winter mulch into the soil or just leave it there.
Make Leaf Mold
Usually, we don’t like seeing things mold but this case is different. Moldy leaves are an excellent garden soil amendment. They improve soil structure and attract beneficial organisms. Use a lawn mower leaf vacuum to gather and shred leaves. Then, pile the leaves to decompose out of sight. It takes some time but soon you will have a rich, crumbly, compost-like product to add to the garden.
Encourage Mushroom Growth
Why rake leaves when you can use them to grow food? Fungi like rich, organic, decaying material, and autumn leaves are just that. You can use the leaves to create an environment perfect for growing certain mushrooms.
See my mushroom growing guide for all the details on growing mushrooms at home.
Leave Them There
The most appealing option for those who really don’t want to deal with leaves or leaf bags. Leaves provide great nutrition to the soil as they decompose. The key to making this work is to run a lawnmower over the leaves a bunch of times before leaving them. As mentioned before, leaves can mat together and suffocate the soil if they are left whole.
Go back to the top of the article to see how to rake leaves fast with a mulching lawn mower.
Bag Autumn Leaves
If, after all that, you want to get your leaves off your property, use one of the leaf clean up tools mentioned above and then fill paper leaf bags. Many towns will collect yard waste and compost it – keeping it out of the landfill. Paper lawn and refuse bags will compost along with the leaves and are a much better option than plastic bags.