Don’t let your neighbors have a better lawn this year

It’s an unspoken competition between neighboring homes when it comes to the exterior appeal of their property.

Think about the last time you drove down a road (or maybe walked through a residential area) and saw two similar sized homes/lots with totally different maintenance habits.

One yard could be overgrown and covered in leaves and fallen twigs, while the other looks like Central Park in New York City. Which one would get the award? …Central Park.

Who wants Jerry McSo-and-So next door to get all of the polite nods, and “not half bad” facial expressions by passers bye? NOBODY.

I’m going to help you do a better job with your yard this year. Please follow along, this will not take long.

Clean up those leaves!

Duh! One of the biggest eyesores of the season once they’ve turned brown and are scattered all over the yard [leaves] have to be dealt with.

Unfortunately closing our eyes tightly and wishing the piles of crunchy little fire starters would just disappear is not going to happen. First let’s see what kind of trees drop leaves in my area (NorthEastern NY).

Trees

Almost all trees with leaves will drop them; we all know pines trees are really the only survivors through winter, as they keep their needles year round (dropping periodically to annoy the dickens out of us at times).

We’ll identify the trees that show their colors in New England every Autumn.

Trees that have leaves which turn Crimson and Scarlet in color:

  • Dogwood
  • Sassafras
  • Red Oak
  • Maples

Trees that have leaves which turn Gold and Yellow in color:

  • Hickory
  • Poplar
  • Birch
  • Elms
  • Ginkgoes

Trees that have leaves which turn Reddish-Orange in color:

  • Mountain Maple

Trees that have leaves which turn Purple in color:

  • Sumac

Now that we’ve identified the beauty side of it, we’ll get into making them disappear.

Tools/Equipment

You’ll need an arsenal of equipment to tackle leaf clean-up; ranging from bagging systems that attach to a mower/tractor costing upwards of $1500, down to simple hand rakes, it’s good to know your options.

Hand-Held

It’s good practice to at least have a regular rake. It’s underestimated how important a simple rake can be when coupled with a tarp; this approach worked well in my younger years while doing fall cleanups for extra money.

Large yards can be cleaned up by raking everything into piles, loading onto tarps and with the assistance of at least one other person, dragging them off to a dumping location (woods, burn pile, etc).

Pretty much any rake will do, but be sure to pick up one that is appropriate for your height. Find them at your local hardware store (ACE?) or big box stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s will have them.

As for powerful, but compact machines to assist you, look no further than a leaf blower. Whether it’s a backpack like the one I recommend here: Husqvarna or a more affordable hand-held gas or electric unit like this Worx or even a walk-behind machine for even more power at a higher price like this TroyBilt.

Blowing leaves can sometimes be a losing battle though, since the natural wind will sometimes make things counter-productive and will result in a cyclone of swirling leaves that find a way to scatter back out onto the lawn.

The “Big” Solution

Ultimately the most effective solution with the least amount of effort will be to invest in a “bagger”.

Some bagging machines can be found in the size of a push mower with a big chute on the front and a bag coming out of the back. Though it’s useful (particularly if you mow your lawn with a push mower due to a small size property), there are better options for larger areas.

Picking up a whole bagging unit for an existing ride-on lawn tractor is going to be the best bet for those who can afford it. The bagging system could also double as a collection unit for grass clippings during the regular season if you so choose.

Though they prices are quite high, it’s worth the investment if you don’t want to spend 10 hours per day on the weekend simply cleaning up leaves by hand.

Frequency

It does matter how often the clean-up occurs, especially if neighbor Bill is out there every day picking up each individual leaf as it falls.

At least one day over the weekend and likely one day during the week would be beneficial (particularly if there’s sunlight to help by the time you’re home from work).

Don’t be neurotic about it, but be sure to stay on top of the cleanup (unless of course there is rain, there’s no reason to be miserable AND discouraged at the same time).

GUTTERS

Ugh, not those!

I wish I didn’t have to mention it, but there’s nothing like a clogged gutter to muddy up the appeal of a home.

It’s important to do these once per year, or hire a professional to do so. Around where I live, there are always advertisements for companies like “The Brothers who just do gutters” that everyone should know someone who can help with that.

Once the gutters are cleaned, it might even be smart to install some type of guard, like a “Gutter Guard” to keep leaves out of there next season and cutting down on cost or time spent doing miserable things.

Something like this Gutter Guard would be sufficient.

Trim those Bushes/Hedges before the snow

Plenty of homeowners allow their bushes and hedges to simply grow forever without taking time to maintain or shape them.

It’s easy to forget, they’re just bushes (until they hinder your ability to walk down a walking path from the driveway to the house).

Curb appeal

Taming wild hedges is not only about keeping the stray limbs cleared from walkways but it presents a total image of your home to yourself (as you pull up to your home) and it represents how you are as a person to others.

If your child has a friend over, more often than not that friend’s parent will subconsciously rate their opinion of you by their first impression. First impression being.. YOUR HOME, the home that their kid will be at for a play date.

Taking pride in the property you dwell on should be important to you, not because of what others think of you, but what you should think of it yourself.

Promote health foliage

By cutting back bushes and hedges, the dead ends being removed will promote growth for the new season in the shrub.

If more nutrients get to the living part of the bush/hedge, then it will grow fuller and healthier in seasons to come, so always trim away the dead limbs that are literally sucking the life from the rest of the bush.

Also easier to clean up leaves…

Again with the leaves, right?

Well, yeah. Getting the bushes pulled back will allow less surface area for leaves to land on, which will then need to be blown or raked out and cleaned up from there.

Save steps by doing the hedge trimming before leaf cleanup.

Not only that, but you’ll have better visibility when the snow starts to pile up if there are no leaves trapped in the bushes to hold a ton of snow.

The Neighbor MUST lose.

Don’t give up if one day your yard looks a mess.

Grab a rake, and get to work, you can do it!

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