If You Have No Trees

Treeless homeowners need to find a way to get some leaves so they can at least spread a modest layer of finely chopped material over their lawn during the winter months.  If they can hustle more, they can use those chopped leaves as mulch over garden beds, and around young shrubs and trees.

First, my far-fetched idea for copping some leaves.  Hold a big party in late October and no one gets a drink unless they bring you at least five bags of leaves.  Okay, okay; cute but not really practical. 

So here’s what you do.  You will need a pick up truck or a SUV with the back seats removed for this tactical strike.  The unfortunate reality in today’s suburbs, is that most homeowners do not use their leaves to mulch their lawns and other landscape plants.  Most suburbanites, carefully rake up their leaves and place them in a plastic or paper bag for pickup by the municipal waste folks.  All you have to do is figure out when the pickup day is scheduled, and spend the evening before that day patrolling the neighborhoods and picking up those precious bags of leaves.  When I was in my pre-arthritic prime I could hustle several hundred bags of leaves over a week or two of skulking around communities near my home.  I never got arrested once. 

Now I recognize there is a bit of a storage problem if you snag 100 bags of leaves and have no tool with which to chop them up so they take up less space.  Whole leaves are not appropriate material for mulching the lawn.  If you have a mulching lawn mower, part of the job is done.  Simply spread a half an inch or more of whole leaves over your lawn and run over them with your mulching mower.  That takes care of the lawn. 

If you mower has a bagger attachment you can put all your purloined leaves over the lawn and chop them up and catch them in the bag to be spread over the beds and under trees or stored in a pile out back behind the tool shed for spreading next spring. 

If you don’t own a mulching mower, the best tool for chopping leaves is the Flowtron Leaf Eater leaf shredder ($150 at www.leafmulcher.com)  It looks like a garbage can on legs with a huge electric string trimmer inside.  As long as the leaves are not wet, it shreds leaves as fast as you can feed the machine, reducing them in size 30 to 1. 

The next best tool, and much cheaper is the Toro electric Ultra Blower/vac ($90 at Home Depot).  Make a pile of whole leaves and use this vacuum to suck them up and chop them at a ten to one reduction.  Ten bags of whole leaves become one bag of chopped leaves. 

If you don’t happen to be excited about skulking around snapping up bags of other people’s leaves, all is not lost.  You may be able to find your organic matter, otherwise known as worm lunch, available next spring in many metro Detroit communities. 

Some communities have programs where they collect leaves that homeowners have raked onto the curb along the street. Trucks with big vacuums inch down the street sucking up those leaves and taking them to some mysterious place no one talks about.  Actually, some towns take those leaves to a composting area in an out-of-the-way spot and turn those leaves into compost.  Many of those communities will allow residents to pick up as much of that leaf compost as they can carry for as long as it lasts.  It is black gold and is usually free.  You need to check with you local government to see what happens to leaves if your town has a pickup program.

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