On Page 1, I introduced blower/vacs, asserting that such equipment shouldn't be thought of as replacing leaf rakes. Instead, I want you to think of blower/vacs and leaf rakes as two components in your yard-cleanup arsenal, both of which have their uses.
What Leaf Rakes Can Do That Blower/Vacs Cannot
Below, I will elaborate on a use for leaf rakes already alluded to on Page 1, as well as uses for the "vac" mode on blower/vacs. But first, let me note that leaf rakes can play a role in lawn care of which blower/vacs are utterly incapable. I'm speaking of lawn aeration.
You see, the leaves we remove in fall are not the only debris that plagues our lawns: there's also thatch to be removed. The build-up of lawn thatch makes it difficult for your lawn to breathe. Lawn aeration performed in spring or fall helps control lawn thatch.
The blower/vacs we use for fall leaf removal do not, in any way, address the issue of thatch. By contrast, if you use leaf rakes wisely, you can accomplish leaf-removal and thatch-removal at the same time.
What do I mean by "wisely"? Well, assuming we're talking about an established lawn, don't be afraid to lean on that leaf rake some, applying enough pressure to dig the tines in a little. This will help dislodge some of the thatch that has accumulated on your lawn, in addition to taking care of the leaves. Not that this is a cure, in and of itself, for serious thatch problems. But every little bit helps.
When It Makes Sense to Use Leaf Blower/Vacs: Vacuum Mode
On Page 1, I discussed using blower/vacs in blower mode. The devices in question are termed, "blower/vacs" due their use in two different modes, of course: blower mode and vacuum, or "vac" mode. It's time now to consider the capabilities of blower/vacs in vacuum mode.
Frankly, most people find leaf blower/vacs ineffective as vacuums for the purpose of, say, removing a large number of leaves from the lawn, because:
- They just don't vacuum up a large number of leaves very quickly
- Their vacuum bags don't hold a sufficient quantity of leaves to make them worthwhile for leaf-removal purposes (you'd find yourself constantly stopping to empty the bags)
Nonetheless, it might make sense to use leaf blower/vacs in vacuum mode in certain select areas of the yard for the removal of a small amount of leaves, dried grass clippings, dirt, etc., where it would be difficult to use leaf rakes; for instance:
- Areas where leaves fall between rocks
- At the base of a fence, where leaves become trapped
- In nooks and crannies around the house and outbuildings
- On decks
You could also blow the debris out of such areas, then pick it up later. But why make extra work for yourself? You're paying for your equipment's vacuuming capability, so why not put that capability to work in those cases where it truly is effective?
When It Does NOT Make Sense to Use Leaf Blower/Vacs: Long Live Leaf Rakes!
On Page 1, I outlined a strategy for tackling substantial leaf removal in a large yard. I left off with the bulk of the leaves having been carried off in tarps, after being blown into piles by a leaf blower/vac in blower mode. However, that's not the end of the operation -- you'll still have some leaves to remove. And that's where leaf rakes come into play.
The best way to pick up those stray leaves is by using that old favorite, the leaf rake. Techie diehards who scorn leaf rakes as a matter of principle will persist and desperately try to pick up the remaining leaves with leaf blower/vacs. But doing so just doesn't make sense, in terms of efficiency: leaves aren't very cooperative in such matters! Technology simply hasn't come up with an inexpensive product, at this point in time, that replaces the lowly leaf rake for this purpose.
Summary: When to Use Leaf Blower/Vacs, Leaf Rakes
- Use leaf blower/vacs in vacuum mode to remove small amounts of leaves, etc. from tight spots, where leaf rakes would be hard to use
- Use leaf blower/vacs in blower mode (in conjunction with tarps) to gather the bulk of your lawn's leaves into piles, for removal by hand
- Leaf rakes are still the most effective tool for putting the finishing touches on lawn leaf removal, or for leaf removal in small yards.
- Leaf rakes offer the added bonus of helping you keep thatch under control.