It’s getting to be that time of year. There’s a bit of a chill in the air, leaves are beginning to change color, and we start thinking about what we need to do to get our homes ready for winter. Today, let’s talk raking your yard.

The way I see it, there are three basic methods for raking leaves: bagging, gathering, and well... not.


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JJ Gouin

Bagging leaves is certainly the most thorough of the three methods, and leaves behind the cleanest yard. Consequently, it is also the most time intensive.

The issue I have with bagging leaves is that the benefit is almost totally aesthetic. The payoff for raking and bagging is… a lawn free of leaves.  I completely understand that it's important to some people; it just doesn't make much sense to me.  Additionally, according to EPA data, in 2018, Americans sent over 10 million tons of yard clippings (both grass and leaves) to landfills.


Unload mulch from a pickup truck

By gathering, I mean that instead of bagging up leaves for disposal, you gather them up, but don’t dispose of them. Instead, you make use of them yourself.

Gather the leaves up around a tree trunk and pack them down hard. In theory, this protects the base of the tree from frost and cold when winter hits, and as the leaves decompose, the tree gets fertilized, a win-win in my book. I also count composting leaves and grass clippings as falling under this category.

If you're interested in composting, check out this guide from the MSU Extension Service.

Leaf-ing them be

Autumn colored leaves with water drops background

I’ll admit, I prefer this option. Not because I don’t like raking leaves (although that is true), but because my entire lawn can benefit from it.

Basically, what you do is… very little. You can either leave them where they fall or chop them up with a lawnmower to mulch them. Just like packing them down at the base of a tree, the leaves decompose (mulching them makes this happen faster), giving you free fertilizer. The difference is that instead of focusing on the trees or shrubs, it spreads out over a larger area.

This method is the least work, but also the most prone to leaves blowing around from the wind or drifts of leaves building up. Also, if any of your neighbors are really serious about having a leaf-free lawn, you probably won’t be winning any points with them.

If you're looking for tips on how to better rake your lawn, here are some ideas from Home Depot, WikiHow, and Bob Vila.

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