Pre­par­ing your home for fall weather

The Progress-Index - At Home - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANGIE HICKS

To rake or not to rake? That is the ques­tion come fall. 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.

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