Sweeping Up The Leaves

No doubt about it, backyard leaf blowers are powerful players in the anti-social sweepstakes. Although they’ll never be as good as ATVs at damaging land while abetting childhood obesity and shattering the public peace, pound for pound they’re unbeatable for noise pollution, noxious emissions, and the erosion of ordinary civility.

On the other hand, there’s also no doubt that raking is the yard work equivalent of ironing, possibly because it’s equally taxing on the back. Even people who love gardening hate raking, even my friend and helper Kristi, a woman up for ANY outdoor task that doesn’t involve chemicals or power tools.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she looked at the leaf-covered Maine lawn, looked at me ( I was holding 2 rakes) and said “ I wish you had a leaf sweeper.”

“ A what?”

Next thing you know, she’d gone home and gotten hers. Turns out the hand powered leaf sweeper is the autumnal third way: a leaf gathering machine that taxes neither the body nor the environment. It looks and works about like a lawn mower except that instead of blades it has brushes. Push it along and the brushes sweep leaves up and back into a collecting sling that holds about 7 cubic feet and is very easy to empty.

Kristi’s is a 26 inch Agri-Fab which sells for around 135 bucks. There are other, ostensibly sturdier, brands but differences – except in price – appear to be pretty minor.

Good Things about hand powered leaf sweepers:

* Easy to use, after you practice for a while and learn best adjustments of brush height and handle-angle.

* Quiet, only a gentle whirr and the whoosh of leaves headed for the sling.

* Useful for other kinds of picking-up. Kristi takes hers onto the drive through her pine woods to collect the needles we use to mulch strawberries and pack dahlias.

* Comparatively inexpensive, even the deluxe 31 inch model sold by People Powered Machines is only $270.00 ( I know, I know; but it’s 2 or 3 times faster than raking and far less ache-producing.)

The Nothing is Perfect part:

* Forget it if your lawn is mostly uneven, with many little hills and minor undulations. Kristi’s works great at her place, which is more or less flat. Not great at our place, a festival of irregularity.

* Seven cubic feet is not a lot if you have a lot of leaves. Kristi puts a sheet at the edge of each lawn section and empties the collector into it several times before gathering the sheet edges and hauling the contents to the leaf pile.

Just a bit of autumnal eye candy; the leaf sweeper is on view at the sales sites and is not a thing of beauty. Chrysanthemums like these are easy to grow, about which more next spring when it’s time to order rooted cuttings.

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