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1 October 2020

Easy ways to collect and use autumn leaves

Our expert guide suggests the best ways to collect leaves from your garden – and some handy ways to use them.
Adelaide Gray

In the UK, leaves tend to fall between September and November. Even though they might look pleasant, leaving them to gather on the lawn can smother the grass, while damp leaves on a patio can become slippery and dangerous. That's why clearing them is such a crucial job.

Leaf blowers help to clear leaves by producing a concentrated jet of air to sweep them off surfaces, so you can form them into a heap. If you have a leaf blower vacuum, it will also suck your collected leaves into a collection bag.

Below, we share our top tips for getting the best job out of either machine, and reveal the best ways you can use the leftover leaves. 

Head straight to our best leaf blowers and leaf blower vacuums.

Video: top tips for using your leaf blower

Ways to use your leaf blower or leaf blower vacuum

  • Blow leaves in a sweeping motion - this will help to clear large areas. Blow the leaves together to form big piles, then either use a lawn mower to collect them or switch to vacuum mode to suck them up.
  • Clear leaves from gravel or flower borders - blow them on to a hard surface where you can collect them easily.
  • Blasting leaves off your patio? - Blow them on to your lawn and then mow to collect them.
  • Use the nozzle - don't just rely just on the jet of air to free up leaves – most blowers are designed for you to use the end of the nozzle to give stubborn stuck-down leaves a little scrape.
  • Don't just use them for leaves - blowers are great for clearing snow from your path and sweeping your drive. You can even blast dust and dirt from your car boot.

Is your blower not working properly? Read our guide on common leaf blower problems

Other ways to get rid of leaves

  • Broom - a decent broom can be just as quick at removing leaves from hard surfaces. 
  • Leaf rake - it's effective but hard work. Avoid rakes with metal tines, as these will stab more leaves than they'll rake up.
  • Leaf grabber - these are an effective way of filling bags or the wheelbarrow. Alternatively, use the traditional method of two pieces of board.
  • Mower - you can use your mower to collect leaves from the lawn. Put it on a high setting and it will partially shred the leaves as it collects them.

Looking for a new lawn mower? Jump straight to our best lawn mowers

Or if you want to collect leaves manually, why not get a wheelbarrow to help carry the load? Here's our guide on how to buy the best wheelbarrow

Handy ways to use autumn leaves

Instead of just throwing away those fallen leaves, try using them to improve your garden with our useful alternatives. 

Make leaf mould

The best thing you can do with autumn leaves is to compost them on their own to make a rich soil improver called leaf mould. You can then use this as a mulch on bare soil, where it will help to retain moisture and suppress weeds, and then improve the soil as it rots down.

How do you make leaf mould?

Which? Gardening has trialled different methods of making leaf mould, and this method came out on top:

  • Shred the leaves by running over them with a lawn mower or by collecting them with a leaf blower vacuum.
  • If the leaves aren't moist already, sprinkle them with water.
  • Put them in black plastic bags and seal when full.
  • Use a garden fork to pierce a few holes in the bags.
  • Leave the bags in a quiet corner of the garden.
  • Your light, crumbly leaf mould should be ready in 12 months.

Find out what gardening jobs you should be doing this month with our guide to gardening through the year.

Add them to your compost bin

If you have a compost bin, you can add layers of autumn leaves. Make sure you add other materials, such as veg peelings from the kitchen or grass clippings.

Leaves can be quite tough and dry, so the best idea is to shred them before you put them in the bin. 

Some leaf blower vacuums shred leaves when you suck them up. Alternatively, for leaves on the lawn, you can go over them with a lawn mower and it will cut them up.

Use shredded leaves as mulch

Shredded leaves make a good mulch for borders, vegetable beds and beneath trees and shrubs. Add a 5cm-deep layer of shredded leaves to your beds, but try to keep the mulch from touching the stems of any shrubs and plants. 

The mulch will help the soil to retain moisture, and limit weed growth. 

As the leaves decay, they will rot down to improve the soil. Depending on the type of leaves and the conditions, it will take around two years for the leaves to rot.

Ready to choose your new leaf blower? Head straight over to our leaf blower reviews

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