Raking Leaves is bad. Never rake your leaves again.
Today while driving on a short errand, I saw a gentleman with a leaf vacuum attached to a riding lawn mower in a small front yard sucking up his leaves to deposit into the street.
Next I saw an old woman raking leaves by hand in a huge front yard.
Then, a woman struggling to drag a tarp full of gathered leaves from her backyard out to the street.
I then saw a teenage girl with a plugged-in leaf blower, blowing her leaves to the street, ever so slowly. It looked like it was going to take her a very long time to complete her project.
Please cease and desist everyone…have some dandelion coffee and let’s explore why raking leaves may be a ridiculous, wasteful endeavor for yourself, and then consider committing to never raking leaves again.
Remember Leaves are a terrific source of Organic Material for your lawns and garden beds. See our Post on Composting. Also, take a look at our post on What is Backyard Farming. Leaves are good sources of composting material and make excellent mulch. Check out how to use leaves to improve the soil fertility of your backyard (here).
Why you should not Rake Leaves
Blowback: The street is the worst place to send your leaves, . They are going to blow back into your yard, which apparently is bad and the reason you raked them out of your yard in the first place.
Potential Deaths: Raking leaves into the street is dangerous according to my grandmother who always insisted that small children were going to be play-hiding in those street leaf piles while teenagers were going to be driving over them and killing them. Perhaps she was a little paranoid, but I suppose it could happen…
No one is coming: Do you even know when the City is scheduled to pick these piles up? In my city, leaves sit out there for weeks and weeks until the City picks them up, if they ever do. They are always threatening to cut this service off because it costs them a lot of money.
Money: In my City, they have big specialized vacuum sucking trucks dedicated to this purpose. I saw one for sale, used, for $50,000 on the internet, just for the vacuum part. How many of these machines does your City own and what are they used for 11 months out of the year? At a minimum of 2-person crews per truck, getting paid by the hour…you get the idea. For my City of roughly 50,000 people, I’ll estimate we spend about $250,000 per year removing leaves.
According to this Homeadvisor.com article the average resident of Columbus, Ohio spends $374.00 to have their leaves removed!
That girl with the leaf blower spent a lot of money and resources to blow electricity across her lawn for 3 hours. The gentleman with the riding lawn mower/leaf sucking machine compacted the soil in his yard.
You’ll buy them back: After wasting so much fuel and time and energy, where do these raked leaves end up? Usually, they end up in a facility that turns them into compost they sell in the Spring for $1 per bag or $15 per cubic yard. Who buys it? The same people in my neighborhood who are leaf-raking fanatics. Actually they buy it in bags from the garden center for three times as much as the City sells it for, or have it delivered for $50 a truckload.
Quality of life: I know a person’s mom who has real stress about her leaves and is thinking about the state of her leaf-covered yard way too much during fall, to the point that I feel it is lowering her quality of life. She prays for big rains that would knock down all of Fall in one fell swoop thereby cutting down on leaf raking sessions. I don’t want Fall to be decimated by a super rain.
Overkill on the points? Perhaps, but you get my drift, that this whole archaic operation of raking leaves and leaf discarding is wasteful. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be. Children don’t have to get run over, and old ladies could shift their worries on to something else, like when you are going to settle down and give them a grandchild.
What Should we do with our Leaves?
Option 1: Do nothing. Your grass will not die. In Northern Ohio, our grass is under snow cover (we’re in the snow belt and we get what is called “lake-effect” snow) for at least 2 months straight with no light getting through, and it never dies. It is true that when the snow melts, your leaves will still be there, partially decomposed, but they will degrade into and improve the fertility of your soil.
Option 2: Mow. People mow their lawns one to two times per week all year, but when Autumn rolls around, they get out specialized implements and machinery to take on leaves. In truth, it is far easier to run the lawn mower over the lawn. The leaves will be chopped up and will improve your soil.
Option 3: Rake leaves into garden beds. If you want to maintain a non-leaf look to your lawn, rake leaves from your lawn into your closest garden bed or landscape feature. When it comes time to buy compost in Spring, you may not need it, or at least will be way ahead of the game. Is there a particular spot where tons of leaves seem to collect? Put a garden bed there.
Option 4: Compost. See our post about composting previously mentioned. You might be surprised to see just how many leaves can fit into a compost cage. Technically speaking, leaves alone won’t turn to compost but rather, through a fungal reaction, turn into something called leaf mold. Basically, it’s the same thing in terms of a beneficial mulch..in the Spring you are going to have a pile of gunk in your compost cage that plants absolutely love.
Option 5: Combo approach. Do Option 2, 3 and 4, and your garden will kick into overdrive, and you will have saved yourself and countless others time, money, and headache.
One last thing: Sell your leaf blower on craigslist! Raking Leaves is so over.