A Canadian Autumnal Debate: To rake or not to rake?

When I mentioned to a few friends in an e-mail conversation that the 16 mature trees on our property were kicking my ass this fall, and that I’d filled more than 20 bags without managing to conquer even the half way point, one of the women who has been living a rural life for as long as I’ve been living in the city asked, “Why are you raking them up?”

542:1000 Autumn leaves

Why indeed? You mean, there’s a choice? Apparently, you can just mulch the snot out of them and (pardon the pun) leave them. But, if you can do that, why do most of the properties around here in Mature Tree Land seem to have careful rows of filled-to-bursting leaf bags lined at the roadside every week?

In defense of raking, it is a wonderful way to carefully inspect each inch of your new property. I found an entire raised and rock-lined garden bed in one corner of the yard that I hadn’t noticed before! And, it’s a great way to meet the neighbours before everyone goes into hibernation mode for the winter. (I had to laugh at the fact that everyone who walked by stopped to chat, and they all knew that we were the new family and exactly when we’d moved in. Small town indeed!)

What’s it like in your neck of the woods, bloggy peeps? Do you rake diligently? Or are you in the “wait for a blustery day to send it all next door” camp? Or maybe you just leave it on the lawn and call it compost? Do tell, I’m fascinated that there are choices other than seventeen hours of raking available to me!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

15 thoughts on “A Canadian Autumnal Debate: To rake or not to rake?”

  1. Because, no offense, most of the people in your burg don’t have an f-ing clue because they be city folk. Also, because the City of Ottawa is stupid, they do yard waste pick-up in rural areas. Disclaimer: I am also city folk, I just read a lot.

    We mulch the large majority of our leaves, and we burn a smaller percentage and use the ashes in the gardens. True story. There’s a maple that sheds in one corner, and that’s what goes into the barrell. The rest I just run over repeatedly with the mower and a nice mulching blade. It’s cheap food for the lawn, and you still get to see all the property, because you’re not just letting the leaves sit and decompose.

  2. I do rake for a few reasons:

    1. I have two large trees on the front lawn and as the leaves fall they fall on my nieghbour’s little strip of lawn adjoining mine. So I feel obligated.

    2. I’m new to the nieghbourhood as of this spring, so I want to be in good regars to my new nieghbours.

    3. Its an excuse to get outside and get active.

    4. I have one giant maple in my backyard. If I don’t rake, I’ll never see my lawn again. The backyard is fairly enclosed, so the wind will not help at all.

    5. Finally, and probably the biggest reason, I’m funny that way that I like to have a nice clean yard. I’m not the guy who has the golf course lawn, but I like it to be neat and clean.

  3. We used to rake our leaves off the grass and onto the flower beds as mulch. They had to come off the grass because otherwise the grass struggled (Lots of leaves!) In the spring we took off part of the decayed leaves because the number of leaves was too much to absorb well in that space (tended to promote mould and made ground too acidic). Now we rake diligently because our beautiful Maple picked up the blight that is going around. Our arborist told us that the only thing you can do is to make sure that as little of the leaves decay back into the ground as possible. It’s a fungus or something. In any case, it’s getting better every year of raking so hopefully this is the last year of having to rake in the fall. I MUCH prefer raking in the spring because there is much less after it breaks down.

  4. We do about 1/3 raking, 1/3 mulching & collectingw ith the lawn mower bagger, and 1/3 mulching & leaving it on the ground at our house (we live in Kanata, in a 15-year old house). It depends a bit on how fast they come down (or how fast we get around to mowing!). If they fall quickly, they end up being too thick to mulch — or at least, too thick to leave all the mulched leaves on the ground, necessitating some use of the bagger attachment for the mower, and/or some raking. So far, we don’t have too many leaves, just the ones from the large maple tree in the front yard, since the back yard was completely barren when we moved in 2 and a half years ago. We’ve planted 3 trees and several bushes since then, so I’m sure we’ll have more maintenance in the future!

  5. We have two 50+ year old trees in our front yard and we just have to rake or else the grass just won’t get any sun. Just like Mary one of the trees is a maple with the blight so we are obligated to rake those leaves.

    Last year we filled 58 bags. I’m hoping to beat that this year.

  6. hi there leafy lady LOL, pipi rakes and rakes and mulches and chips etc all the season and oh did I mention he fishes in between , he’s never done until the snow fliies. but it has made our yard a beautiful place to be as you know . love to everybody and keep on “rakin”.

  7. Oh my but I love to read your comments! Only have a second, supposed to be making dinner (oops!) but I am curious — our maple seems to have that blight as well. The leaves have a black circle on them, looks almost like a burn mark? So I should be extra diligent to rake those ones up? And what else can you do to nurture your blighted maple? Oh, the things I learn from the blog!!

  8. When we lived in the country on a large lot I had a million leaves in autumn. Many were oak leaves which chose not to drop until very late in the season. We used to rake, then we’d rake them into the gardens to act as mulch and yes, in a wind storm I’d watch them blow wayyyy down the road. Now in the city, I rake the few we get into the garden. Mulching is an excellent idea!

  9. I have no trees, so I do something even more absurd than not raking. I take bags to the local park and collect leaves to use in my garden. They make excellent mulch, and they add needed brown matter to my compost. I’m always sort of sad when I plan to collect leaves from a big pile on the roadside, and someone else has been along to clean them up before I get there.

  10. Our maple trees have the black spots too. I think they are called tar spots. When I looked it up you need to make sure to get rid of all the leaves but if you’re neighbours have it too then you are stuck! They get really bad in wet summers but if it is dryer they don’t tend to spread as much. Good luck with all your raking!

  11. We usually rake because that’s what everybody else seems to be doing. But I’m definitely in favour of the lazy option!

  12. We have a service this year (blush) but in past years, we have mowed the leaves and left them. Usually, after they were mowed, we couldn’t really see the bits and pieces on the lawn. But this is down south, even in the US, where the grass still grows in November. When we lived in CT, we raked. I think. Some of those years (the birth-to-three ones) are a bit of a blur.

    We live on two acres, and so do our neighbors, and we’re all required to keep most of it in trees, so the fact is, by February, our gardens and lawns are covered with leaves blown out from the woods anyway. Raking feels a tiny bit pointless.

  13. I was just recently rejoicing that in at our new house we only have two small trees worth of leaves to rake, compared to five or more large trees at our last house. While I got good exercise before, I used to rake them into a pile at the base of the trees and let them compost there as well as put some in the actual compost. This year I will compost all of them on my garden.

  14. In years past we’ve raked and bagged. Lots and lots of bags. This year my husband plans on mulching. We did the front yard this week and were happy with the results. We get more leaves in the back, so I’m not so sure how that will work out.

  15. All of the above. Well, we don’t do the mower thing because we have a non-electric push mower. We also have a big chicken wire cage that takes about 20 bags’ worth of leaves. The pile gradually decomposes quietly on its own over the course of the year.

    About the tar spot – our huge maple had it very badly last year, but this year it has been much better. Weather variation? We had it professionally pruned a couple of years back, so maybe it’s less stressed now.

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