Fall Leaves: Part III
Given the disdain that most people feel for raking, the power equipment industry has offered up a vast array of options that, at least ostensibly, are supposed to make the task easier. I can tell you from experience that most blowers and suction systems won’t save you a minute — and that all of them are worse for the planet, for your wallet and waistline.
Having said that, here are some options to consider if you feel you must collect your leaves with something other than a rake:
YOUR LAWN MOWER — For thin layers of leaves, simply mulching the leaves with your mower is a great way to return the nutrients from the leaves back into the soil. I use my Black & Decker battery-powered mower for this purpose early in the season, well before the oak leaves drop onto the lawn to form a thick blanket that no mower could handle.
Side discharge mowers can also be useful, even with a fairly thick layer of leaves. I usually begin mowing on the perimeter of the lawn and aim the chute toward the center. That reduces the area of leaves that I need to collect with my rake.
POWER BLOWERS — These devices, powered by either an electric, propane or gasoline engine, force streams of air out a long tube, thereby allowing you to blow the leaves in a certain direction. They are available in hand-held, shoulder-strap or wheel-mounted models depending on the size of your job.
For the average size lawn, power blowers are complete overkill. As I said in my previous post, the rake-and-tarp method is going to be the fastest, most reliable method of collecting your leaves. I do own this hand-held, battery-powered sweeper — which I use to blow off my walkway and driveway, or to get leaves out from behind shrubs. I love it and, since it’s rechargeable electric, it’s quieter and vastly less polluting than gas models. One charge provides about 40 minutes of use on the 18-volt battery.
I have written off the other gas-powered blowers as a matter of principle. They’re just too loud, too polluting and generally disruptive to my quiet neighborhood. I would especially avoid any gasoline models that require mixing two-stroke oil. These devices, used for just a half hour, emit more volatile organic carbons (VOCS) than a car driven for several ours.
The Lehr company of California has come out with the first hand-held or shoulder-strap propane version, which is reportedly 90 percent cleaner burning than gasoline models. The canisters are readily available at your local hardware stores and provide about two hours of use.
NOTE: The Lehr company has since licensed this technology to Fiskars, and has discontinued its own production. Fiskars will come out with the propane trimmer in 2011, with plans to re-introduce a blower and mower thereafter.