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Fall Leaves: Part II

In most of the places I’ve lived in the Northeast, fall leaves are a fact of life. Even if you don’t have any large deciduous trees on your property, chances are your neighbors’ trees will send some spent foliage your way.

Collection options abound. We’ll focus this blog on the most environmentally friendly options:

RAKING — If you’re like most people, you probably disdain the very notion of raking. The process can be seen as long, laborious, tedious. You name it. I can’t say I love raking, but I’m sure that raking is the most environmentally friendly leaf-collection option. Moreover, raking is usually the fastest way to get the leaves from the lawn to the compost pile — and it’s definitely great exercise for your body. Raking burns about 300 calories an hour while toning your arms and strengthening your back and legs. Just be sure to stretch first and, to avoid muscle pulls, don’t try to do the whole yard at once.

You’ll need to consider three primary tools before beginning your raking regimen. The first is the rake itself and you can probably find 50 or so varieties to choose from and some are much better than others. Here are two I like: 1) Yard Butler manufactures what it calls “the world’s greatest rake” at I don’t know that it’s the greatest, but the flexible tines cover all sorts of terrain and garden beds; and the rake won’t break even if you step on the tines in cold weather. If you live in areas of cold-weather autumns like I do, this attribute is huge; 2) I do wish the Yard Butler were a bit wider. I prefer a rake that’s 30 inches wide so I can cover a good swath of lawn. In that regard the Ames clog-free rake with a cushioned grip is as comfortable and efficient as it gets: Two pointers, though. Paint the exposed wood on the handle and then reinforce it with duct tape to avoid having to replace the handle after a few uses. Also, avoid using the rake when temperatures are well below freezing. The resin tines will crack and break.

The second consideration in raking is a tarp for collection of the leaves. Forget the wheelbarrow or plastic bag. If you must bag because you just don’t have a place to compost the leaves, then use a biodegradable paper bag instead of plastic. Ideally, you can rake your leaves onto a lightweight tarp at least 10 feet by 10 feet in size; it’s easy work to drag the pile of leaves to the compost pile or bin. No matter what anyone tells you, I can guarantee that raking and tarping is the most efficient and earth-friendly leaf collection system on the planet.

The final tool to consider is comfortable gloves. If you have office hands, like I do at certain times of the year, you’ll almost certainly get blisters on your hands if you don’t wear gloves. You can find cheap utility gloves that will wear out, and you can find plenty of uncomfortable gloves that will make your hands sweat or cramp.

NEXT: The power tool options

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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