Life is full of choices, and a decision comes rustling in every autumn: spend sweaty hours raking those pesky leaves, or risk the wrath of your neighbors by blowing the leaves off your lawn with a noisy leaf blower?
There are benefits to both approaches, and a couple alternatives to consider. As with most of life’s choices, the path you choose will depend on your surroundings, capabilities, tolerances and time available.
Chop ‘em up! Many cabin owners have opted for an easy, simple alternative to raking or blowing: firing up the lawn mower and chopping those leaves into a fine mulch. You can use a bagging attachment on your lawn mower to transport the mulched leaves to your compost pile, or use them as mulch around trees and shrubs.
But, simply pulverizing leaves right on your lawn may be even better; recent studies at several universities have shown that allowing the organic content of finely chopped leaves to remain on lawns reduces weed growth in subsequent years.
Employ the leaf blower Yes, the leaf blower. Love them or hate them, leaf blowers have their time and place. The pros are pretty clear-cut: Under the right circumstances, these suckers can clear out a leafy lawn in a fraction of the time that raking takes. But they’re not for every cabin owner or cabin community.
The problem with leaf blowers is twofold. First, and most obvious, is the noise. Gas-powered leaf blowers can reach 110 decibels, about 80 decibels higher than the threshold for sleeping. So if you have neighbors who are trying to sleep in – or are just enjoying the tranquility of the woods – consider limiting your leaf blowing to the mid-morning or early afternoon hours.
Secondly, leaf blowing does not equal leaf removal. Blowing your leaves onto adjoining property, the road or the lake (don’t even think about it!) will quickly raise your neighbors’ ire. So, if you don’t have a wooded or undeveloped area on your lot to blow your leaves onto, you may want to forego the leaf blower. If you do choose to use one, consider going with a quieter electric model instead of a gas one. Besides, electric units are lighter and easier on your back.
Grab a rake If you have a small- to medium-sized lawn and want to burn off the rack of ribs you had the evening before, consider the old-fashioned rake. It’s quiet, clean and neighbor-friendly. Better yet, the rake’s tines can act as a dethatcher and aerator, enhancing your lawn’s health even as you improve its appearance.
WHY BOTHER? This is the cabin we’re talking about, dang it; why not just let nature do its thing and decompose the leaves where they sit?
If you have a lawn at your place, anything more than a light coating of leaves will suffocate the grass, advises the University of Minnesota Extension Service, adding: Remove all oak leaves because they decompose more slowly than other types of leaves.
But, if you have a wooded lot with no lawn, you could leave the leaves alone to decompose in the piles where they fall. That’s a sound strategy – as long as the area is at least 30 feet from your cabin. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, it’s important to create a 30-foot defensible safety zone surrounding your cabin and outbuildings. Within this area, vegetation should be trimmed, and the ground cleared of leaves, branches and twigs in order to help prevent a wildfire from traveling from the forest to your structures.