Rakes Versus Leaf Blowers: Benefits and Drawbacks

October 23, 2020 Updated: October 24, 2020

Q: I use a rake to gather the leaves falling from my trees. I am getting older, and the raking is getting harder. My neighbors have more trees, and they use leaf blowers, but they are noisy. Is there a benefit to the lawn for either tool?

A: A leaf rake is great for small landscapes. They can pick up large leaves, but leaf rakes are not good for small leaves such as honeylocust leaflets. Rakes damage grass plants by tearing off leaves, and they can uproot entire grass plants. This is especially true in shady lawns where grass plants don’t grow as well and have small root systems. Where are shady lawns? Under trees, of course.

Rakes don’t work as well as a leaf blower on paved surfaces such as driveways, patios, and rooftops. Rakes don’t work as well as leaf blowers at removing leaves from the top of hedges or from evergreen branches. And finally, rakes don’t work as well as leaf blowers in tight areas like those between boulders, at the base of a fence, or between boards on a deck.

Leaf blowers

There are a lot of leaf blowers on the market today. They can be battery-operated, electric, or gas-powered and can be handheld or worn as a backpack.

A leaf blower will make landscape cleanup easier and noisier. Handheld electric leaf blowers are lighter and quieter than handheld gasoline-powered blowers and easier to start. They can handle leaves on driveways, decks, and patios. Battery-powered blowers are more mobile, but are usually less powerful and need recharging, so keep spare batteries on hand. Gas-powered backpack blowers can move much larger piles of leaves, run longer, and aren’t restricted to being near an electric outlet, but gas engines require more maintenance to keep them running.

Some blowers convert to vacuums, allowing you to collect light landscape debris, such as small twigs or leaves, in an attached bag. These small vacuums often grind the debris, simplifying disposal, and creating mulch for use around the landscape. Be sure to wear a dust mask, because the bag allows a lot of dust to escape.

As the old Jim Croce song “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” says: You don’t tug on Superman’s cape / And you don’t blow leaves into the wind.” Or was it, “You don’t spit into the wind”? Well, either way, the best way to blow leaves is with the wind. If necessary, you can use the sailboat technique of tacking into the wind by blowing the leaves diagonal into the wind, back and forth until you can get the leaves to where they need to go.

You should wear hearing protection no matter what kind of blower you will be operating. Wearing goggles and a dust mask are also a good idea.

What are you going to do with the leaves? If you use a vacuum that grinds them up, you can use them in landscape beds where they act as mulch over the winter and then decay to become part of the soil. They can also be mixed into compost piles. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to bag them and pay to send them away just to turn around in the spring and buy mulch or compost. Some cities will send crews to vacuum leaf piles from the curbside, and then the city mulches them.

To make it easier to gather the leaves, you can blow the leaves onto a tarp. The tarp can be drug to the curb or tipped into a disposal bag.

The leaves can sit on lawns for a few days, but the longer they cover the grass, the more likely the grass will get powdery mildew or begin to decline because of the lack of sunlight. If it rains on the leaves, it is harder to get them off the lawn. Blowing the leaves several times is easier than waiting until the leaves will create piles too big to blow. After the last leaf blowing, any leaves that are left can be mowed into mulch and left on the lawn.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2020 Jeff Rugg. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.