Experts say that unless you enjoy reseeding in spring, you shouldn’t leave leaves on the lawn over winter. So another seasonal question worth asking is whether to take the time and risk the blisters to do the job yourself or hire some help.
Top-rated lawn pros tell our researchers that leaves left to pile up can form a heavy mass that can kill or damage grass and ornamental plants. Matted leaves block sunlight and reduce water evaporation, which can cause fungus, mold and disease. These alone can wipe out a lawn in a year or two.
Experts say that smaller leaves that decompose quickly or blow away — such as those from honey locust, dogwood, ginkgo and birch trees — can often be left on the ground if they don’t get too thick.
There are two main ways to clear leaves: Running a mower over them, sometimes repeatedly, to reduce them to small bits that can be left on the lawn as added nutrients, or raking and gathering them.
Because leaves are a natural material that, in the right setting, biodegrade into a wonderful soil amendment, you may want to avoid bagging them and having them taken to a landfill. At the least, consider paper bags, which decompose more quickly than plastic.
Most landscaping companies offer leaf removal services. A common method the pros use involves mobile vacuuming to remove even the smallest leaf bits from your lawn. Or, they may rake leaves onto a tarp, and haul them away on a trailer.
If you’re thinking of hiring a lawn pro to help with leaf maintenance, you may want to wait until almost all your leaves are down before calling, or you may prefer to have them come out several times. One top-rated lawn pro told our team that most customers request two leaf clearings: one before Thanksgiving and another before Christmas.
Prices range widely. Some companies will charge a flat fee to cover the cost of coming out and using equipment, with an additional hourly charge to cover labor. Top-rated service providers said price ranges start at about $100 and can rise to about $375 for a 10,000-square-foot property.
For recommendations about reliable lawn companies, talk to neighbors and friends and consult a trusted online source. Get several bids and ask for and check references. Make sure the company you hire is appropriately licensed for your location.
When hiring, ask for a free estimate and find out where the company takes the leaves. Some take them to a recycling facility, where they’re composted over winter and sold to landscapers in spring as a soil amendment. Companies may also chop leaves and apply them to your garden or compost pile.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter at @Angie_Hicks.