Over the years, I've used a lot of different tools and methods for raking leaves out of my yard. Starting when I was a kid and my parents set me to work, to now when I have to clean up my own lawn, I've tried a number of gadgets and tools to see which makes the annual chore a little easier. Here's a quick rundown of everything I've used to rake leaves, as well as their pros and cons.
Regardless of which you use, I also recommend picking up a pair of one of the best gardening gloves to save your hands from some wear and tear.
Least expensive option
Takes the longest to clean up
Ah, the humble rake. I've spent countless hours using plastic, metal, and bamboo rakes to gather up leaves into piles before hauling them to the curb to be picked up by our town. There's a meditative quality to raking, but it's a real pain to lug a tarp full of leaves around the yard, especially if you have a large lawn. But, a rake is the least expensive — and the quietest option — for picking up leaves. This Fiskars 65-inch metal leaf rake ($45, Amazon) looks to be a good, inexpensive option.
Light, yet powerful
Sticks can get caught
A little fussy to switch from blower to vacuum
Nothing says autumn like the dulcet tones of leaf blowers whining away in the suburbs. Personally, I've found handheld leafblowers to be only marginally more effective than raking, but they are helpful in getting leaves out of hard-to-reach spaces. What I like about the Black & Decker leafblower I own — which costs $73 at Amazon — is that you can convert it into a leaf vacuum/mulcher.
Like Megamaid from Spaceballs, it can go from blow to suck, and grind up leaves and small sticks, which are collected in a bag. It's great if you have your own compost pile. The only quibbles are that it can be a pain to switch the parts from leaf blowing to vacuuming, and that sticks can sometimes get caught in the tube, blocking the airflow. This electric model also requires you to plug it in, so you'll need an extension cord — though there are battery-powered options available.
As quiet as raking
Picks up leaves easily
Doesn't mulch leaves
We had one of these when I was a kid, and it was a game-changer — it cut the time to clean up the yard in half. Basically, this device has four sets of plastic bristles that spin as you push the contraption around the yard. The leaves are swept into a large hopper. And, because the person pushing the sweeper provides all the power, it's as quiet as using a rake, so you won't tick off your neighbors. The only downside is that the leaves aren't mulched, so you'll have to dispose of them yourself. If you're looking for an efficient, human-powered way to pick up leaves, a lawn sweeper may be your best option.
Cleans up everything in one go
Also works as a chipper for small branches
I was gifted a Craftsman lawn vacuum two years ago by my brother-in-law, and it's made raking leaves an incredibly easy task. Instead of raking leaves into a pile, I simply walk the lawn vacuum across the yard — like a lawn mower — and it sucks up everything in its path, mulching leaves and depositing them in a bag. It's so powerful that it will even pick up acorns, which cover my yard thanks to a huge oak. It also has a slot where you can toss in small branches, which it will chip up.
However, this is a gas-powered device, so it is the loudest of all the methods I've used. And, at $800, it's the most expensive, too. If my generous brother-in-law wasn't getting rid of it, it's doubtful I would have bought one on my own.