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Clearing Up Your Leaves

How to Save on Fall CleanupFor people who live in wooded neighborhoods, Fall is a mixed blessing. On the bright side, there's Halloween and Thanksgiving, crisp mornings and brisk nights. Best of all, there's the eye-catching joy as leaves turn a shocking range of red, orange and yellow shades, filling the horizon with an explosion of color.

Unfortunately, it only takes a few days for nature's fireworks to transform into a slimy mess as fallen leaves begin to decompose, forming a suffocating mass that can kill your lawn and turn your front walk into a slippery deathtrap. Getting out early to rake leaves will not only keep your lawn looking nice, but could also prevent a nasty fall later in the season.

Leafing Through the Options

When it comes to preparing your yard for the winter, there are three basic options: raking your leaves, blowing your leaves, or hiring someone else to rake or blow your leaves. The last option is by far the easiest, but generally costs at least $30 per week. In other words, with great ease comes great price.

On the opposite end of the scale, the cheapest option by far is raking the lawn yourself. In terms of materials, basic lawn care is exceedingly inexpensive: Amazon is currently charging just under $12 for an Ames Tru-Temper 30" rake, and most big-chain hardware stores have a decent selection of similar implements for less than $20. Add in an $11 tarp to haul leaves or a $12 box of leaf bags to bundle them up, and you're looking at a smart, economical yard-clearing method.

Raking also clears out much of the dry grass, pieces of roots, and other thatch that collect in your lawn. This, in turn, allows more air to get to your grass' roots and, in the spring, will give you a head start on growing a healthy, green yard.

Blowing and Mowing: Mechanical Options

Unfortunately, raking can also be dull, repetitive, time-consuming and exhausting, which is why many yard workers use mechanical tools to help the process along. For example, if your leaf fall hasn't been too heavy, and if it hasn't rained recently, a lawnmower can speed up the process by shredding the leaves and leaving your grass short enough that later leaf fall will be more likely to blow into your neighbor's yard.

Of course, if you don't have a bag attachment, you will still need to rake. And even if you have a bagger, lawnmowers aren't really designed for leaf removal, which means that they could leave a lot of mess behind. Faced with the options, many homeowners prefer to go with leaf blower/vacuums. Prices range wildly on these items, but good-quality electric ones start at just over $50, and adding a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord will knock the price up another $25. With electricity factored in, the price rises even higher.

If you want real leaf-clearing power, gas-powered leaf blower/vacuums can power their way through your lawn troubles. Unfortunately, prices range up to $500, which can make them even more expensive than a professional lawn care service. Beyond that, they tend to be loud, which can annoy your neighbors, and they use gasoline, which can add further costs to your cleanup. And, at the end of the day, you'll still be stuck with bagging or hauling your leaves.

After all is said and done, leaf clearing is tiresome and repetitive, and it's tempting to hire someone else to handle the problem. But at the same time, crisp fall days are a great time to be outside with the family, and clearing your leaves is a great excuse to get out of the house before winter hibernation kicks in. With a few rakes, a lawnmower and a relatively cheap leaf-blower, you and your family should be able to get the problem handled pretty quickly -- just in time for some mulled apple cider and a string of fall football games!

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