I have a corner lot with several large trees, which makes fall a not so desirable time to work outside. My yard is not large enough to warrant a riding mower, so that idea is out. Here is what I've tried:

  1. Leaf rake, leaf chute, and lawn bags. Nope, nope, nope.

  2. Leaf blower/vac, leaf chute, lawn bags. I got a pretty powerful Husqvarna handheld that blows and mulches. The blower works great, so does the vac. Several issues with this approach:

    • Large lot, the handheld gets a bit heavy after a while. Not a huge deal, but if I'm looking for a new solution, it's something worth mentioning. It's akin to holding a 10lb weight in one's hand for an hour or so. If any solution suggested requires a blower I will probably pursue a backpack blower, and forego the vacuum if necessary or look into a separate vac.

    • The bag the blower came with was entirely too small, and after I blow all the leaves into a huge pile before I vac( it just seems intuitive to do that) I can't get a good vac rhythm going before it's time to empty the bag. I've seen the huge aftermarket leaf bags, so that's worth a try, but a benefit of the small bag is less lower back strain from repetitive bending over, which goes away if you have a single large bag, as I'd always be bending over digging leaves out of the larger chute to put in the smaller paper lawn bags.

What I have researched recently:

  1. Leaf Tarp/Net. The idea is to blow the leaves onto a tarp or net and haul them off somewhere. Unfortunately my local doesn't do curbside sucking, and I don't have a truck to haul them off somewhere. If there was a cheap enough net I'd be glad to set it out with the trash, as bagging them sort of sucks right now.

  2. SuperNet. This guy might be onto something.

Ideally I'm looking for a reasonably priced approach that will save me time, right now it takes at least 1/2 - A full day to get the first batch of leaves up, and there's always a second back that takes slightly less time. I realize no solution will encompass everything, but knowing what others do will at least get the idea wheel turning.

  • Why do you need to bug the leaves before you put them on your compost heap? Mar 30, 2016 at 14:33
  • ...what compost heap? Do tell
    – MDMoore313
    Mar 30, 2016 at 14:36
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    Hey BigHomie! Are you butted up against a more 'au natural' landscape? If you are you are so lucky! Just blow them to form a THIN pile out there beneath the trees. Do you have any friends that need a great mulch for winter? Bagging the leaves? Not necessary. I've had very small gardens and still, during the fall and winter I will blow leaves on top of the mulches (hopefully, HOPEFULLY, not bark mulch) and allow them to disintegrate! Then add organic decomposed mulch for bedding and weed control on top. Are you using your own compost?? Cool...gas blower I could not live without!
    – stormy
    Apr 1, 2016 at 22:43

5 Answers 5


I use a lawnmower with a bagger. The blades chop the leaves and reduce the volume by up to 80%. The finely shredded leaves are great mulch for plant or vegetable beds.

I cut my grass low in the fall as we get a lot of snow and this reduces the chance of snow mould. You may have to adjust your cutting height depending on the amount of leaves.

This method does mean you have to empty your bag frequently. I dump the shredded leaves directly on the garden beds. It sure beats raking.

  • hmm, weird that I haven't tried that. Do you raise your mower wheels to the highest setting (or close)?
    – MDMoore313
    Mar 29, 2016 at 17:49
  • Lawn mowers with big collection bags work great. You can either dump the clippings right into the trash bag, or use as mulch/compost. I do the later now, but used to do the former as well. Have to be careful as some municipalities get touchy when you mix grass clippings with the leaves. Mar 29, 2016 at 19:44
  • Always always mow your lawn on the highest setting!!! This is also a brilliant way to chop up some organic matter for your lawn and use your bagging THINLY on top of soils of your plant beds. Critical for weed non-growth on your beds. 'Clean Green' is an issue for places to dump this stuff but becoming with knowledge a super way to decompose 'not so clean green'...people pay big bucks for this stuff why would you give it up? Grins!!
    – stormy
    Apr 1, 2016 at 22:48
  • Actually forgot about this question, someone happen to u/v it today. I actually tried this approach this past fall because I thought I ran out of options. Turns out it was the easiest approach I tried.
    – MDMoore313
    Feb 8, 2018 at 2:17

I let the grass grow a little higher than usual for a week or two before the leaves fall, set the mower on the highest setting and mow twice at that setting. This mulches the leaves in place. I do this for subsequent weeks, progressively lowering the blade. By the time I am ready to use the bagger a lot of the material is composted on the lawn; since leaves are still falling it does not make that much of a difference in appearance of the lawn. Great natural fertilizer for the lawn, reduces volume and I use the bagged leaves clippings on my final lawn mow of the season for mulch in the spring.


We have a wooded area that we'll occasionally burn. You'll want helpers and don't do it on a windy day, but it works pretty well and all that ash seems to give the grass under the trees a good kick start. It looks better than when we leave them alone or mow the area.

Of course you'll need to check regulations in your area and call about any relevant burn permits.

  • This is a suburb, so that probably won't be allowed, but a good idea nonetheless
    – MDMoore313
    Mar 30, 2016 at 20:17
  • Ash is NOT A GOOD SOIL AMMENDMENT!! This has been scientifically acknowledged!! Forget the burning, my goodness!...when I die I want to be buried shallowly in a pine box, not cremated! Only takes 2" of organic material to stop any growth of seeds, roots from the sun's energy. Think about that. Burning and ash is NOT GOOD FOR PLANTS. Allow organic material to be decomposed by the decomposers not by fire!!
    – stormy
    Apr 1, 2016 at 22:52
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    I don't know what to tell you. You could be right. To be honest the last time I did it was an accident. I get prepped and wait for a good day for huge burn piles, but I was burning a few leaves and some burnable trash on a windy day and it got away from me a little. All I can tell you is that the grass was much thicker and greener that spring. It could have been for other reasons, though.
    – Dalton
    Apr 3, 2016 at 0:56

One time I did a huge complex using tarps. We just blew everything into the tarp and then took that to the truck.


Before answering the exact question you asked, I would be remiss if I did not mention several issues that really need to be addressed in order to provide a thorough and balanced approach to the “problem” of what to do with leaves.

The first question that all of us should ask— and I don’t mean to get preachy right here at the outset— is, “Do I absolutely need to gather the leaves that have fallen?” Or to put it another way, “Should I be depriving the trees from which the leaves came of their main source of food?”

Now I don’t want you to think that you’re saddled with a purblind “treehugger” here. There are, of course, many situations in which the answer is “Yes!” Gathering them is certainly preferable to allowing them to end up in stormwater drains, eventually adding an undesirable nutrient load to our waterways. And a residential area that has a great many mature trees may experience such a heavy fall of leaves that something simply has to be done with them or they’ll end up clogging gutters, smothering the grass, and making an unsightly mess of walkways.

If at all possible, however, you should first consider shredding them finely with multiple mower passes, and allowing them to remain on any available turf where they will decompose during the winter, contributing important nutrients to both grass and trees alike. And also think about allowing them to remain on any perennial beds and around existing shrubs where they will decompose into valuable leaf meal mulch.

Now, let's return to your question, the answer to which has to take into account a number of issues that are particular to leaves themselves (and here I’m thinking of leaves from deciduous trees): first, they are too high in carbon to make compost all by themselves; (C:N ratio of 60:1) so they need to be mixed with a high-nitrogen material to form true compost; second, they tend to mat and therefore resist decomposition if not first shredded; and third, they’re often too dry by the time they’re gathered to provide a moist enough environment for the necessary fungal and bacterial decomposers to thrive. And while we’re at it, we might as well include a fourth: the fact that gathering them can involve considerable time and labor. So with the understanding that any effective solution should deal with all of those issues, below is the approach I’ve employed.

I have a two-acre property so I use a riding mower to cut the grass. And although that mower has a bagging attachment, I only use it for the final cut of the season — sometime in late November or early December. I usually stop mowing during the entire month of November, starting before the leaves begin to fall and throughout the entire time that they’re falling. This allows the grass, which I’ve been cutting at a height of four inches all season, to grow a bit taller and snag all those leaves, keeping them from blowing away or into my neighbors' yards. Then, for the final mow, which you probably know should be at a height of roughly two inches going into the winter, I pick up and simultaneously shred both the grass and leaves to get a perfect mix of ingredients for a “leaf-meal mulch.” The grass provides the moist, nitrogenous matter and the leaves contribute the brown, carbonaceous matter.

Coincidentally, I use the same wagon that holds my mobile cold frame in the spring to collect the mix which I then dump in a designated spot at the bottom of my property. There’s no need to cover the pile because much of the decomposition is fungal in nature and that makes it easy to turn the pile with my Troy-Built rototiller about three or four times during the following summer. And at the end of one year’s time, it will be ready to use -- which is very convenient because I will need to use the same area again next fall.

If you'd like to see photos of the various things I alluded to in this answer, you can check here: https://goo.gl/photos/g9zHhvrjxm5unLLV7

  • 1
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    Oct 27, 2019 at 13:29

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