If there are any large deciduous trees on your property, you know how difficult it can be to deal with all the dead leaves of fall. Those mature trees are beautiful until those colorful leaves rain down like hellfire on your pristine lawn. Today, I’m going to share a few strategies that I consider the best way to bag leaves.
If you have a few trees, you may be able to mulch them back into your lawn to provide some carbon to your turf, but if your property is like mine (I’m looking at you, Norwegian Maple), you have to bag them.
So let’s get into it. What is the best way to bag leaves?
Why You Should Remove Leaves From Your Lawn
First thing’s first. Why is it so important to remove leaves from your lawn?
The answer is pretty simple. Left on your grass all winter, that thick blanket of leaves can smother your lawn. It can also interfere with the growth of cool-season grasses.
Leaves can also attract lawn pests.
In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways that you can bag leaves and keep your sanity. Yes, it is possible!
If you’ve spent a brisk fall weekend in your yard only to cry out at the heavens: “There has to be a better way!” I’m here to tell you there is. In fact, there are a few of them.
Tips and Best Practices for Bagging & Removing Leaves from Your Lawn
Here are some useful tips for making the task of raking and bagging your leaves easier this year.
Wait Until All the Leaves Have Fallen
It’s best to wait until all the leaves have fallen from your trees before starting the job.
While it might seem best to tackle leaf removal every week to stay on top of it, I prefer to tackle the project in one day.
This allows me to make leaf piles with the kids, and enjoy my fall weekends by going apple picking or on hikes. It also removes the anxiety I feel if I clean up my leaves and then leaves from my neighbor’s trees blow into my yard.
Wear the proper clothing when you’re bagging your leaves.
There is a lot of dust and dirt involved in raking and bagging leaves, so you should wear clothes that protect you and keep you warm, even if you’re working up a sweat.
This may be the mom in me, but it’s easy to catch cold if you’re outside sweating in a t-shirt in cold weather, even if you feel warm from all the physical activity.
I recommend a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and long pants. You may want a bandana or face covering of some kind to keep the dust out of your lungs.
Choose Heavy Duty Gloves
Wear the right gloves for the job. Choose a pair of heavy-duty leather gloves that will keep branches and thorns from poking you, and will prevent blisters on your hands.
Consider Your Posture
Keep proper posture as you rake and lift. No matter how you bag leaves on your property, it’s a physical task and it’s easy to hurt yourself if you rush through it and don’t bend and twist in natural ways.
I know, I know — we all feel like we’re invincible. But you won’t feel invincible if you hurt yourself, so prevent fatigue in your arms and shoulders by standing straight as you work.
Use the Best Tools for the Job
If you’re raking your leaves, choose a rake with a wider tine spread.
There should be a total width of at least about 30 inches on any good adult leaf rake. This will help you cover more space as you go. If you make the mistake of using a narrow rake, you’ll gather fewer leaves with each movement and make more work for yourself.
We all probably own one of those plastic or metal leaf rakes, but if you can, I recommend investing in a rake that is specified to be “no-clog.”
This kind of rake should have angled tines, and you can rake all day without having to stop and pick out sticks and leaves that get stuck in between the tines of traditional leaf rakes.
This fall I’ll celebrate my 7th anniversary with this clog-free True Temper leaf rake I got on Amazon. It has made me a happy woman, and I couldn’t imagine raking leaves without it.
Go With the Flow (of air)
If there’s a breeze outside (as there often is in autumn), rake the leaves in the same direction that the breeze is blowing. This will mean that the gusts of wind will help you do your work rather than set it awry.
You will cause yourself a lot more work if you try to gather the leaves in the wrong direction.
If possible, I also recommend that you choose a day when the wind is blowing in the direction of your least favorite neighbor’s house (sorry, Brad).
Divide and Conquer
Any time you’re performing lawn care tasks, I always recommend dividing your lawn into different sections.
On a small lot this could be the front yard, and the back yard.
On a larger property, you can find natural ways to create manageable sections.
Work one section of your property at a time, finish it, and then move on.
Keep Things Fun
One of the tricks to making a big project feel easier is to make it into a game.
If you like to have a large pile of leaves in the middle of the yard for your kids, put those leaves on a large tarp. You can also enlist the kids to help you make the pile!
Once the kids are done playing, you can simply tie up the tarp and bring it to a community collection center to have a big portion of your leaves removed from your lawn.
I do recommend that you enjoy the leaf pile over one or two dry days, and remove it before it gets rained on … otherwise you’re in for a sloppy mess of a job.
Check the Weather
Always rake your leaves before rainfall. This is because dead leaves after the rain will be dense and soggy, making your job more difficult.
Wet leaves will also clog up rakes, leaf blowers, and lawn vacuums, making a difficult job even worse.
Get Some Professional Gear
Consider buying or renting a yard vacuum.
This piece of equipment will let you gather more leaves while needing fewer bags. With a yard vacuum, you’ll have an easier time picking up leaves that are in awkward places, such as atop stone mulch and between bushes.
Do I Need a Leaf Blower?
Nobody needs a leaf blower, but if you have a large lot, you may consider buying one (here’s my list of recommended leaf blowers).
This piece of equipment can help to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on cleanup after you rake, and it’s fun to use (if annoying to listen to).
It works best to break your lawn into a grid pattern. Use the blower to work back and forth inside your grid. When using a leaf blower, don’t stand unnecessarily close to the leaves. Doing so will make them blow around and cause frustration.
When you use a leaf blower, make sure that landscape rocks and twigs are well out of the way. This is important because these objects can damage the leaf blower. Also, ensure that you wear ear protection, eye protection, and consider a dust mask or respirator.
And if you do buy a leaf blower, go all-in and buy a gas-powered backpack blower. The corded ones are a joke, and while there are some good battery-powered options, I find those are better suited to clearing grass clippings and debris from pathways and driveways.
If you are going to buy a leaf blower, invest in a tool that will get the job done every year for a long time. Echo is my brand recommendation, though there are lots of good options out there.
What if I Have a Small Number of Leaves to Remove?
If you live on
- a small lot,
- a windy lot (where leaves are blown away), or
- have few deciduous trees,
then you may not need to bag your leaves at all!
If you have a limited number of leaves on your lawn, go ahead and mow over them with a mulching lawn mower. This will rend them into a sort of fertilizer for your grass.
Dead leaves supply carbon to compost piles, and when paired with the nitrogen of grass clippings, they’ll do the same for your lawn (without smothering it).
It’s best if your mower has a mulching setting. With a mulching setting, the blades will be able to cut the dry leaves into tiny little flakes.
My Technique: The Best Way to Bag Leaves on My Property
On my property I’ve perfected a system that doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools, and which allows me to clean up my lot in a single day’s work.
Here’s what I do:
- After all of my leaves are down, I rake leaves out of garden beds and away from trees and hedges, out into my lawn.
- I then use my Honda mulching mower to mow over the entire property, mulching all of the leaves to reduce the volume that I’ll have to clean up.
- Next, I get my small trailer hooked to my SUV with a tarp in the trailer. I use a large tarp that hangs over all sides of the trailer. Next, I park the trailer alongside the section of yard I’ll work on first.
- I then use my Honda mower on the bagging setting to vacuum up all of the mulched leaves. My self-propelled Honda really pulls the leaves up and into the bag. Once the bag is full, I drive over to the trailer and empty the bagged mulched leaves onto the tarp.
- I repeat this process until the quadrant of my lawn I’m working is finished. If I have the room on the trailer, I do the next section of my lawn.
- Once the trailer is starting to get full, I fold the tarp over the top of the mulched leaves. I tie the tarp down with a rope so they don’t blow away on the road. Next, I drive to my community brush dump. Once there, I can untie the rope, and dump the leaves with the tarp, leaving my trailer nice and clean.
- I then repeat. Because of the reduced volume of mulched leaves, I can typically do my entire lot in 3 trips. I try to do 2 trips in the morning, and one after lunch.
This may not be a perfect process, but it minimizes the time I spend raking. It also makes great use of my powerful Honda mower, cuts the cost of brown paper leaf bags from my budget, and keeps me from renting expensive lawn equipment.
What works for me may not work for you and your yard. But I find that this is the best way to bag leaves and haul them from my property, and I wanted to share that with you in case it helps or gives you some ideas.
You’re Ready for the Rigors of Autumn!
Now you have the information you need to bag your dead leaves as quickly and easily as possible every year.
I hope this article saves you some time and aggravation this year when cleaning your lot for fall. And remember to properly winterize your mower before you put it away for the year.