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Just for fun, take an inventory of all the leaf removal tools cluttering your garage.
If you’re like me, you’ve got a half-dozen rakes of different sizes and materials, a couple of blowers in various states of repair, and a couple of infomercial gadgets that promise to make annual leaf gathering faster and easier.
In fact, you need only a few essential leaf removal items in your landscape tool collection to accomplish your autumn goal — removing the heavy leaves that smother grass and make your lawn a splotchy mess in spring.
Fewer gizmos and more elbow grease help home owners remove leaves and keep up with lawn maintenance, says Brett Lemcke of R. M. Landscape Inc. in Rochester, NY.
“The reality is, you can’t avoid hard work” when it comes to fall landscaping chores, says Lemcke. “There are some tools that will help us, but the best help is family and friends. The more hands, the better. Doing it yourself is daunting.”
Unless you tether a mower to a stick and let it mulch leaves all by itself.
Whether you rake, blow, or tie a mower to a stick, you should remove leaves at least twice each fall.
“Some people wait until every last leaf falls, and then they pick them up,” Lemke says. “You should pick them up throughout the season. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Here are four essential leaf-removal tools that’ll help you clear your lawn before winter sets in:
Rigid leaf rake. This plastic, fan-shaped rake is your go-to rake for collecting leaves. Pick one with a cushion handle and a 30- to 36-inch fan. Avoid the super-wide fans that can spread to 48 inches; they’re too big to rake between shrubs and in flower beds. Cost: $10-$20 (30-inch fan).
Leaf tarp. Instead of scooping leaves into a million plastic bags, rake or blow them into a big pile on top of a polypropylene leaf tarp. Then drag the tarp to the curb and dump. Cost: $22 for 12.5-by-10-ft. tarp.
Leaf blower. Select a two-cycle, gasoline-powered blower to collect leaves in tarps or blow them directly to the curb. If you have a large yard, buy a backpack model, which is more expensive but more comfortable than handheld blowers. Cost: 2-cycle handheld blower: $180; 2-cycle backpack blower: $300.
Yard vacuum. This tool vacuums, shreds, chips, and bags leaves and other yard debris. Once leaves are ground up, they’ll decompose quickly in your compost pile. Cost: $400-$650.
is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL.