Mulching leaves helps with cleanup

By Marianne C. Ophardt, Special to the Tri-City HeraldNovember 16, 2012 

Down the street from me, there are several beautiful large silver maple and sycamore trees.

In the fall, I empathize with their owners who have the seemingly insurmountable task of leaf cleanup. One of these tree owners already has 10 bags of leaves in front of his house, and it doesn't look like he has made a dent in the leaves on the ground.

Leaf cleanup is the price one pays for enjoying the beauty and benefits of trees the rest of the year. Raking is a tedious job, especially when there are volumes of leaves to remove. However, there are other ways to approach this task, such as simply mowing with a mulching mower. This can work if you don't have mountains of leaves.

If you mow frequently, you may not need to collect any leaves. However, this isn't a good solution for the folks down the street because they have tons of leaves. If you have the same problem, you may want to employ a mulching mower with a bag on it. You can chop and collect the leaves at the same time.

Another option is a "leaf vac." I've never understood the value of leaf blowers, but leaf blower/vacuums may have value if you have a zillion leaves to clean up. For example, Black & Decker's 12-amp Sweeper Electric Blower is advertised as a powerful blower, but it also can function as a leaf vacuum with an "anti-clog Vortex vacuum system" and a metal mulching impeller with a 16:1 mulch ratio. This supposedly makes it capable of reducing 16 bags of leaves to a single bag, but some online reviewers said it didn't reduce leaves that much. Many mulching blower vacuums cost less than $100, but if you want to be the envy of the neighborhood, you can spend $400 for a Dr Power Leaf Mulcher Yard Vac available at

If you're a traditionalist and prefer the contemplative task of raking, keep in mind that every rake is not the right rake for the job. Clarington Forge ( offers a variety of rakes just right for the specific job you have in mind.

Clarington's Plastic Leaf Rake has a large plastic head with 23 flat plastic tines that makes raking leaves and garden debris easier. While leaf rakes are the rake of choice for getting leaves off the grass, what about leaves on the patio, driveway, walkways, and in the landscape? Clarington's Wizard Rubber Rake has rubber tines that enable you to rake up leaves, including wet ones, and other garden debris without damaging those hard surfaces or your rake.

A long time ago, I bought my favorite rake for getting leaves out of garden beds. What I like about it is the adjustable steel tines. There is a plastic lock that lets you reduce the size of the head down to 7 inches or up to 25 inches. Mine doesn't have a brand name on it, but I found one just like it in Gempler's catalog ( The one at Gempler's has an adjustable head and an adjustable handle, letting you reduce the length to 35 inches or expand to 69 inches.

Trees do make us work a bit harder when autumn comes, but they're worth it for the many benefits they provide. Don't you agree?

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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