In the UK, leaves fall from the trees from late September to mid-November. While a few leaves around the garden are fine, there are so many other uses for dried leaves that many gardeners prefer to collect them for, including leaf mould or compost rather than leave them lying around. As if left unattended you could soon see your lawn suffer, but more interestingly, you can easily overlook their value. When gathered up and used properly, these stray leaves can reinvigorate your garden.
Your grass is a living organism, requiring both air and sunlight to create food, and grow. Allowing thick piles of leaves to gather on your lawn will prevent sunlight from reaching the grass, therefore suffocating it. Leaving leaves for even just three weeks may be enough to damage your grass and leave it in a muddy mess.
Similarly, in less extreme cases, as the grass becomes weaker because of the lack of sunlight it’s getting, moss starts to grow and takes its place. This moss can then spread rapidly leaving your garden looking messy and un-kept.
Fallen leaves cause other more practical problems too. They can clog up and cover drains, preventing rainwater from washing away. In periods of heavy rain, this water may pool and cause areas around your home to flood. Wet leaves also create an additional risk because they become slippery. If trodden on, they may cause the individual to fall, hurting themselves in the process.
There is a variety of ways to collect leaves from your garden, and many different garden tools are available to help. There is no best way to do this; it’s all a matter of preference.
Equipment to collect leaves from grass
A simple way to remove leaves from your lawn is with a garden rake. Raking leaves benefits your lawn as a heavy layer of leaves will prevent sunlight reaching the grass. The best way to rake leaves is to start at the edges of your lawn and work towards the centre, creating a pile in the middle. Then you can gather the leaves into a bag to be put in the bin or used on the compost heap. This is one of the cheapest methods to clear leaves and you should be able to buy rakes of all kinds in most garden centres and DIY stores.
A flat, tined plastic or rubber rake is best for collecting leaves from grassy areas and are generally inexpensive to buy. Regularly raking your lawn with a metal spring tined rake will be too harsh, and will damage your lawn. While these are suitable for almost all gardens, owners of larger lawns with lots of leaves may find a handheld rake too physically demanding. An alternative is a grabber - a grabber is like a litter picker, but with a larger picking area allowing you to collect leaves.
Clearing autumn leaves can be quite a chore so if you’re wondering how to pick up leaves fast, A Flymo leaf blower is for you. This garden tool will allow you to direct a large number of leaves into a tidy pile for collection. Blow the leaves downwind and onto a sheet for easy removal. Once your sheet is full, gather the corners together to move the leaves either to the bin or to your compost heap. Leaf blowers are generally quite cheap, but for a similar amount you can buy a garden vacuum which will collect the leaves too.
Garden vacuums or blower vacs as they are sometimes referred to,are one of the fastest ways to pick up leaves as they take this one step further and suck up the leaves from the grass and gather them in their collection bag. This allows the user to then empty the bag in the compost or garden waste bin. The best garden vacuums will not only collect the leaves, but shred them at the same time, reducing the number of times you need to empty your garden vacuum, and reducing the space required in your bin. It also makes the leaves the ideal size and ready to use in your compost bin.
Garden vacuums can vary in size and price, but the weight is the most important aspect to consider as it will increase as you collect leaves.
Electric Lawn Rake
Another alternative is an electric lawn rake. Unlike a garden vacuum you use these much like a lawnmower and push it across your lawn. They tend to have adjustable raking heights allowing you to collect leaves of different sizes. The leaves are collected in a collection box which is detachable allowing the user to easily dispose of the leaves.
Much like lawn mowers, lawn rakes are quick and easy to use - they do all the back-breaking manual labour for you! Lawn rakes, or lawn rakers as they are sometimes known, typically have two functions: to collect leaves, and to scarify the lawn, removing moss and thatch for healthier grass.
Lawn rakes like the Flymo Lawn Rake Compact 3400 allow you to change the raking height. By placing it on the highest setting, it will throw the leaves into its easy-to-empty collection box without disturbing the grass below.
Equipment to collect leaves from gravel
Collecting fallen autumn leaves from gravel can be a little tricky. The best way is to use a spring tine fan rake, because the problem with leaf blowers and garden vacuums is that, the more powerful ones will blow or suck the gravel up, not only ruining your gardens look, but ruining your leaf blower / vacuum too. Before using any leaf blower or garden vacuum on gravel, first read the manufacturer’s instructions for advice. A soft broom may also work.
Equipment to collect leaves from delicate plants and bushes
When collecting leaves from around your plants it’s important not to break or damage them. The safest way is by hand - picking them up wearing a pair of gardening gloves. This can be backbreaking work. A broom made of twigs, sometimes called a witches broom can be the best piece of equipment to buy to remove the leaves from flowerbeds, before collecting them.
Uses for fallen leaves
Now you have collected all your fallen autumn leaves using the correct equipment, it’s important not to throw them away. Fallen autumn leaves have a number of great uses and can help improve the health of your garden.
1.Leaf mulch - Shred the leaves and add a layer, 2 to 3 inches thick around your plants and flowers. This will offer great insulation to your plants and vegetables over the winter - and when it breaks down act as a great soil conditioner. Leaf shredders are ideal if you have larger amounts of leaves to shred.
2.Leaf mould - Shred your leaves and let them break down into leaf mould. Store them in a bin or in a shady area of your garden. Leaf mould is a great soil conditioner that helps the soil retain water, and makes ideal living conditions for helpful animals like earthworms.
3.Compost - Leaves are the perfect brown layer for your compost bin. Store them during the autumn and winter months so you have a regular supply of brown organic material for your compost heap.