1. Always rake with the wind, and rake downhill whenever possible.
2. Share the wealth with your lawn. When the first leaves alight on a still-green lawn, mulch-mow to return the leaves and grass clippings to the soil. In addition to helping your lawn, it's easier to rake turf areas that have been smoothed over by a good mowing.
3. Use your mower to shred leaves to use as mulch or in compost. Set aside whole leaves in a separate pile, and deal with them later when you have more time.
4. Mix leaf species. Leaf-eating microorganisms that get started on thin maple or dogwood leaves will move on to thicker oak leaves as the mixture decomposes.
5. Don’t pick up leaves unless you must. Instead, collect leaves in a tarp or an old sheet, pick up the corners, and carry or drag the bundle to your piles.
6. Match your rake to your leaves, and to your body. At stores, try rakes on for size before you buy. Rakes with metal tines last longer than plastic ones, but plastic tines may be lighter.
7. Minimize how far you move your leaves. Rake them directly onto nearby beds that won’t be worked until spring. Use shredded leaves as mulch beneath foundation shrubs. Maintain leaf piles in different parts of your yard to reduce how far you must drag or carry tarps full of leaves.
8. Once you have your leaves in piles, stomp through them to keep the leaves from blowing away. If you are using a pen or other enclosure, leave it open on one side until you’re through collecting leaves. That way, you can rake or dump right into the pile without lifting your loads over the sides of the bin, and your pile will be accessible for walk-in stomping.
9. Wear gloves to prevent blisters. Cloth gloves are comfy, but any glove that protects your skin from rubbing on the rake handle will suffice.
10. Wear a dust mask when shredding leaves with your mower, especially if you have allergies or are easily irritated by dust.
11. Watch the noise. When you’re not in the mood to mess with your mower, blower, or other noisemaker, give in to the quiet. Rake.
12. Work a little at a time, and stop when you’ve had enough. Leaf season will last for several weeks, so you have plenty of time to let yourself enjoy the work.
Do you have other tips to help fellow Mother Earth readers this leaf season? Please post them in the Comments section below.
Adapted from The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, by Barbara Pleasant and Deb Martin. Photo by Barbara Pleasant
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.