Fall is upon us and that means the deep green foliage we have enjoyed throughout the warmer months will soon transform into a blur of blazing reds, buttery yellows and dazzling oranges. For the homeowner, the look is both bewitching and unnerving, as it ensures you’ll soon be reaching for your fall equipment to handle the quickly gathering piles of leaves. But when is the best time to rake leaves?
Leaf Raking Done Right
Depending on where you live, the first batch of falling leaves will begin in September or as late as November, and may take weeks to complete the metamorphosis cycle. Higher elevations and more northerly climates should be done well before Thanksgiving. However, the farther south you go, you could be raking leaves until early in the new year.
Use Your Lawn Mower
The first batch of dropping leaves will likely be light. At the same time your grass may still be growing, therefore instead of bringing out the rake or a leaf blower, use your lawn mower to gather the clippings and leaves. If you compost, that mixture of green and brown material makes for an ideal additive according to the NC Cooperative Extension.
Do This Every Few Days
If your tree canopy is especially dense, then the best time to rake leaves may be every few days. Especially as the transition to full autumnal color steps up. There is a very practical reason for this, too — the deeper and heavier the coverage, the more strenuous and time consuming the clean up will be for you. Use a wide rake with long tines and a smaller garden rake to work within tight areas, including your deer-resistant bottlebrush buckeye or now colorful black chokeberry. A leaf blower also works best when the coverage is still manageable.
Complete the Cleanup Before Winter Settles In
Continue the leaf removal process as long as leaves remain on the trees. At this point, the best time to rakes leaves is before the first snow settles in. By removing all remaining leaves, the grass will be preserved and you will avoid heavy reseeding next spring to replace killed off grass from snow mold. A yard free of leaves will remove the hazard wet leaves present on walkways, and your neighbors will also be glad they won’t have to deal with the leaves that blow from your yard to theirs.
Consider One Final Mulch
At the very end of the season, consider not raking. Certainly, it may seem like the best time to rake leaves, but it is also an ideal time to feed your lawn. As long as you have a good balance of grass clippings and leaves, you’ll provide a gentle feeding for your lawn throughout winter. So, leave the bag off your mower and mulch your lawn.
Ultimately, the best time to rake leaves will depend largely on the expanse of your canopy and the local climate. Gathering family members to assist you, hiring local teenagers or turning over the bulk of the work to a landscape company are some ways you can attack this project. Extra rakes, recyclable brown bags and one or two leaf blowers can help your army complete the job in short order.
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Photos courtesy of Mathew C. Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.