Fall Home & Garden

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Simplify fall leaf cleanup

Apple pie, pumpkins and blooming chrysanthemums are symbols of autumn. But nothing signals the arrival of fall more than the millions of leaves that begin to cascade from the trees as the temperatures dip.

Many people feel nothing is more beautiful than the yellow, red, purple, and orange leaves that coat neighborhoods and countrysides each fall. But in spite of their beauty, leaves might be a nuisance to homeowners tasked with removing the growing piles of them from their lawns. Those with large oak and maple trees in front of their homes understand the seemingly endless work of leaf removal.

As the days begin to grow shorter and colder, these changes trigger a hormone release in trees, prompting them to drop their leaves. This chemical message causes the formation of abscission cells where the leaf stem meets the branch, say botanists at the Missouri Botanical Garden. So rather than merely dropping off of trees when the wind blows, the leaves actually fall off deliberately.

Left untouched, fallen leaves can contribute to lawn problems such as poor aeration, mold growth and moisture issues. Leaves also can cause staining on driveways and walkways. Prompt removal can help prevent any problems. To make faster and easier work of leaf removal, keep these tips in mind.

• Mow over thin leaf coverage. If only a few leaves have fallen, use a mulching mower to shred the leaves until they are small enough that they won't suffocate the lawn. The small pieces will decompose in the lawn, reintroducing nutrients as a result.

• Use an ergonomic leaf rake. Ergonomic rakes can prevent back and arm pain, much in the way that ergonomic shovels do when shoveling snow.

• Invest in a quality leaf blower. Using a rake is good exercise, but homeowners with large properties might want to use a leaf blower. These machines can dislodge leaves from bushes and hard-to-reach crevices, and they work faster than rakes.

• Use a tarp. Rake or blow leaves onto a tarp and then drag the tarp to the curbside or to the back of a truck for proper disposal. Special leaf scoopers enable you to grab more leaves if they need to be picked up and transported. Otherwise, you can use the covers from two garbage pails to achieve a similar effect.

• Work with the wind. Rake in the direction the wind is blowing and downhill if your property slopes. This way it will be easier on you, and you won't be working against Mother Nature.

• Spread out the job. Do not attempt to remove all fallen leaves in a single day. Schedule a few cleaning days during the season to make lighter work of the job than if you tried to do it all at once. Keep in mind that leaves will continue to fall throughout the season and you may need to spend a few days removing leaves from your yard.

Removing leaves is a large part of fall home maintenance. Employ these tips to make this task less strenuous.