Buyers Guide to Garden Vacuums and Leaf Blowers

Keeping fallen leaves tidy can be a struggle in Autumn. While a few leaves are okay, too many will make your garden look untidy, pose a slip hazard on paths and even suffocate your plants. Removing leaves and other garden debris is achievable with a lawn rake but, if you have a lot of leaves, it can quickly become more physically demanding than you might expect.

Because of this, garden vacuums have become increasingly popular. These handy garden tools speed up the process of collecting fallen leaves and debris, as well as helping you avoid the effort of bending over and collecting by hand.

Blower vac

Questions to ask when buying a garden vacuum or blower

There are a couple of key questions you should ask yourself to help find the best leaf blower or garden vacuum for you:

1. How big is the area you want to clear?

If you have a large garden or area of land to tidy, a cordless leaf blower or garden vacuum might be the best solution. Typically, cordless models are either petrol or battery powered.

The advantage of these is full mobility, with no power cables or extension leads that might get wrapped around bushes or trees. This also ensures you can reach every corner of your lawn. However, these models are more expensive to operate than corded models, so for smaller or average sized gardens, a cordless model isn’t a necessity.

For a smaller garden, a corded blower vacuum is probably all you will need. The cord length will allow you enough room to manoeuvre and reach the edges of the average sized garden easily, while these models are usually quieter so you won’t have to worry about disturbing anyone else.

VIEW FLYMOS GARDEN VAC AND LEAF BLOWER RANGE

2. What power source should you be using?

While petrol blower vacs offer unrestricted movement around the garden, they have some disadvantages.

Generally, the amount of moving parts in the engine means they’re noisier and require frequent maintenance compared to an electric blower. In a residential area, you are really going to know about it when a neighbour fires up a petrol blower vacuum.

You could try a battery powered cordless blower vacuum as these are generally smaller models that are great for clearing patios and those tricky to reach areas between pots and plants. A charge should last long enough to clear an average garden, and each model will specify its recommended area of coverage, so it’s easy to tailor your purchase accordingly.

Electric blower vacuums are usually much cheaper than petrol models, while they are much quieter and don’t emit any fumes. For smaller gardens, an electric leaf vacuum or blower is probably the best solution for your collection needs. The cord length is usually 10-12 metres long giving you a wide range of access around your home. Corded blower vacuums are also typically easier to switch between functions, meaning they’re ideal for smaller gardens.

What to look for in a garden vacuum

Due to their nature, garden vacuums tend to be heavier than leaf blowers as they have more parts, such as collection bags. However, garden vacuums are designed for comfortable use and will ensure that you reduce the physical workload when working in your garden.

Wheeled garden vacuums

Garden vacuums can become quite cumbersome as the collection bag fills up. However, many garden vacs now either include a wheel, or one can be purchased as an accessory, allowing you to guide the vac around the lawn with ease.

The Flymo Scirocco 3000 is one example of a wheeled garden vacuum, while the Flymo GardenVac 2700 has a separate wheel accessory available to purchase. The best garden vacuums will shred the leaves or garden material as they enter the vacuums collection bag. This allows more material to be collected, reducing the frequency of which the collection bag needs to be emptied.

This means that your now pre-shredded leaves are immediately ready for the compost heap and used as mulch.

Shredding ratios

The shredding ratio is an excellent feature to look for – sometimes referred to as the mulching ratio. A vacuum with a higher shredding ratio will result in the debris being finely shredded, allowing more material to be collected. For example, if the ratio is 10:1, the leaves will be cut to a tenth of their original size. The Flymo PowerVac 3000 offers an even more impressive 16:1 mulching ratio.

Blower functions

Most garden vacs are now multi-purpose and include a blower function. These are called blower-vacs. However, cheap leaf blowers will not typically include the vacuum function. If you’re buying a blower-vac to collect fallen leaves, then being able to switch between blow and suction modes on the fly is very efficient.

Blower-vac models

One key thing to look at is the speed at which you can switch between these modes. A blower-vac that can switch between modes by sliding a lever or pressing a button is ideal. Blower-vacs like the Flymo GardenVac 2700 or Scirocco 3000 have this simple mechanism making them quick and easy to use.

Many blower-vacs are already made up to suit both functions, but there are some that require the addition of extra parts to optimise the vacuum function. While this will make the tool lighter when used as a single function leaf blower, it means that you will take more time changing, rather than collecting by just flicking a switch. These large tools can end up taking up a lot of space, smaller compact models are more often tidier and more popular.

What to look for in a leaf blower

Nozzle speed

There are some specifics you should look out for when shopping for a new leaf blower. The best ones have a high air flow from the nozzle, and the higher the air speed - the more force the blower can use to move the leaves.

If the leaf blower has a small nozzle, then the air will be concentrated, which is good for moving stubborn objects. However, it’s not so good if you have a large area to clear, as the airflow will move fewer leaves with each pass.

Boost or jet functions

This is where you need to find a balance between time and power. Some leaf blowers come with a boost or jet function to help give a strong burst of air to move denser or tougher objects.

If you choose to buy a battery leaf blower, ensure the run time of the battery is enough to clear your lawn. If not, you may need to purchase an additional battery or wait until the battery you have is recharged. For a longer leaf blowing or vacuuming session, a corded vacuum is certainly recommended.

Can a leaf blower vacuum collect wet leaves?

There are lots of ways to collect both wet and dry leaves from around your garden. Dry leaves are usually easier to collect because they are lighter and more willing to move. However, you shouldn’t just ignore wet leaves as they may make paths slippery and could introduce disease into your garden as well as stifle your plants.

If your leaf blower has a high airflow concentrated with a smaller nozzle, you can shift wet leaves as well as dry. The higher airflow is particularly good for moving wet leaves which are heavier and denser than dry. The Flymo GardenVac 2700 is ideal for this task as it also has a Jet Vac mode. This allows the vacuum to suck up wet leaves just as quickly as it would manage dry.

How to collect leaves from different surfaces

You should also consider the type of surface you are likely to collect leaves from. A leaf blower is ideal for use on lawns or a hard surface like concrete or paving stones, but you will need to take extra care when clearing leaves from gravel.

Gravel

Use a lower setting on your leaf blower and ensure that you are facing away from any windows or people. You should also aim just above the leaves to avoid lifting a lot of gravel.  

Hedgerows

A leaf grabber is ideal for collecting leaves that have caught in your hedge but be wary of any remaining birds’ nests. You could collect the leaves by hand, but a grabber will make it easier to reach through the hedge without damaging it.

Flowerbeds

The lowest setting on your leaf blower is best for collecting from flowerbeds. Use a leaf blower to gently dislodge the leaves from where they are caught and then use a leaf grabber or collect by hand.

Bark mulch

To remove leaves from bark or mulch, you need to make sure that your leaf blower is on the lowest setting and aim just above the leaves you want to move. This method will only work with dry leaves as wet leaves will be too heavy to lift, but a rake should work instead. Once you have collected as many leaves as you can, rake over the surface to smooth the bark over again.

Scirocco 3000
Scirocco
Air speed 55 m/s
Mulch ratio 10:1
Weight 6 kg
GardenVac 2700
Garden Vac 2500
Air speed 59 m/s
Mulch ratio 3:1
Weight 5.1 kg
PowerVac 3000
PowerVac 3000
Air speed 86.11 m/s
Mulch ratio 16:1
Weight 5.2 kg