“Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place/ And I can picture it after all these days.” - Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”
We know all too well about the falling of autumn leaves – the beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, the crisp crunch as you walk over the carpet of leaves and the overwhelming anxiety knowing that one of these days you will have to deal with the pieces that are now all over the place.
The trees in 2023 have valiantly clutched their leaves as if pearls, with the drop of the leaves this year 12 days later than average. Coupled with Sunday afternoons now occupied with the rare watchability of the Detroit Lions, it has many of us resorting to trying to mount a last-minute comeback against the yard intruders before the snow blows in sounding the final whistle.
At Duncan Disposal we like to make things as easy as possible so here is a short, historically inaccurate, timeline of how we have handled the fallen foliage over the last 150ish years. Pick out your favorite one to help you relieve the stress and get back to watching football on the couch; guilt free.
1850 – 1920 – Mother Nature’s Blanket
least amount of physical effort, some social backlash
Tools needed: thick skin
My personal favorite. There are many benefits to leaving the leaves besides the avoidance of manual labor. The leaves that fall add an extra layer of insulation above the ground which provides shelter, nesting and food for several friendly insects and bugs that are allies in your effort for a green, healthy lawn. Leaves also form a natural mulch that helps reduce weeds and fertilizes the soil when it breaks down. You may have to spread out leaves if they collect heavy in one area, but this will leave you with a healthy, plush, yard in the spring.
This may be a great method to maintain a healthy yard, but it may hurt your reputation around the sub as you will become a point of reference for neighbors – “We are the third house past the one with all the leaves in the yard.”
Mowing over the leaves will help break down the leaves so it looks better and you will still get the benefits without being called out on the NextDoor App.
1921 – 1940 – Burn, baby, Burn
fun but dangerous
Tools needed: permit, rake, lighter, fire extinguisher/hose
The same era that brought us lead paint, burn barrels for trash and asbestos. This should be left to the pros (not me) and is only allowed in certain communities with a permit.
Burning leaves can be quick and efficient, but it also causes pollution, smoke irritants and has the potential to spread to an uncontrollable fire.
After getting your permit, start your pile of leaves at least 100 feet from a structure, pick a clear, wind free day and keep the pile small. Start burning from one side of the pile, do not start burning from the middle of the pile. Be sure to stay alert and on site to manage the burn off.
1941 – 1990 – Rake and Bag
labor intensive, looks great when done
Tools needed: rake, compost bags, gloves, Advil
The job every kid has been volunteered for. The job takes 3 days and a chiropractor visit to recover from. The job that gets you in shape for snow shoveling season… raking leaves.
We have all been there – a lazy weekend afternoon in mid-October, the sun is shining, some leaves have fallen on the ground. You think to yourself, it will be a great day to go out and rake some leaves and it is at least for the first 20 minutes. Then the blisters start, your lower back tightens up as sweat pours down your forehead. You look up to realize there are a lot more leaves than you thought and they continue to fall from above like confetti falling at Time Square on New Years Eve. So, you head back in defeated with an empty promise to yourself that you will soon return to complete the job. Days turn into weeks as the excuses you make pile up like, well, leaves; I don’t have time, I’m too tired, it’s too windy, there is a 5% chance of rain, etc. Before you know it, Christmas items start popping up on the shelves and yet you are still buried in remnants of Autumn.
Fear not! Here are some tips to make the rake and bag process a little less overwhelming:
1 Get a Good Rake
2. Get the Right Bag
3. Get Good Gloves
4. Wait until all the leaves have fallen
5. Pick a dry and low wind day
6. Rake with the wind
7. Rake gently and in rows
9. Don’t overfill the bags
10. Take breaks, split it up over a few days if needed
1990 – 2023 – Leaf Blower
quick, fun, noisy, still have to bag
Tools needed – leaf blower, fuel/battery, compost bags
Echo first introduced the first backpack leaf blower into the US consumer marketplace back in 1970, later adding a handheld version in 1977. Consumers quickly saw the efficiency (and fun) that blowers brought to the dreaded game of 52,000 leaf pick up. Blowers started flying off the shelves through the 80’s as almost every tool manufacturer brought a leaf blower to market. 1989 saw almost 1 million leaf blowers sold in the US as it overtook the rake as Americas tool of choice for leaf removal. Since that time, leaf blowers have become easier to use, lighter, quieter (still super loud imo) and even electric.
In one of the least scientific studies ever conducted; Duncan Disposals “Machine vs Man Rake Bowl” found that even after struggling to get the leaf blower started, the leaf blower was twice as fast as raking. The leaf blower was also a lot easier on the body, more enjoyable and did a comparable job versus raking.
A few tips to make the leaf blowing experience easier is to stand farther away from the leaves or the leaves will just fly in all directions if you stand too close. Also try to make quadrants out of the area you are working on blowing with the wind into separate piles. Make sure you have fuel or that your battery is fully charged before you start!
At the end though you are still left with the unenviable task of getting the piles of leaves into the bags.
As you take care of your leaves this Autumn, please keep in mind with the Thanksgiving holiday coming upon us, to be thankful that you are raking leaves and not shoveling snow!!