Spring clean-up is one of the top three important services to perform on your lawn. It is important to know what is involved in a spring cleanup, ways to increase efficiency, and things that you should never do.
What is a Fall Clean-up?
First, let's talk about fall clean-ups for a minute. What are they? In general, a fall clean-up involves removing debris from the surface of the lawn. Debris may include leaves, sticks, and anything else that is laying on the lawn blocking the sun from reaching the soil. As I said, this is just the most basic part of a fall clean-up. Most professional lawn care companies offer additional services to go along with a fall clean-up. These may include preparing perennials for winter, trimming bushes and hedges, pulling our weeds from flower beds and gardens, edging the lawn, and pretty much anything else that will prepare the yard for winter.
Do I Need a Fall Clean-up?
Yes! It is extremely important that a fall clean-up os performed on your yard. If left on the lawn over the winter, the leaves will trap moisture between the grass and the leaves causing fungus to grow. It is important that you always clean up your lawn each fall to prepare it for the winter. The other additional services may not be necessary, but a fall cleanup is definitely the most beneficial service for your lawn in the fall.
How to Do a Fall Clean-up:
Unlike aerations and dethatching, fall clean-up is a job that almost any homeowner can do with common personal lawn equipment. As soon as the majority of the leaves have fallen you can use a rake, lawnmower with a bag, or a leaf blower and collect all the debris. The only part of a fall clean-up that might be challenging for a homeowner is the disposal. Most likely you will not be able to fit the debris into your yard waste pickup can (if you even have one). In Minnesota, most counties have public yard waste dumps open on weekends and some weekdays. If you have a vehicle capable of transporting debris you can take the waste to the dump for free. If your county does not have a free public yard waste dump you can most likely find yard waste disposal sites that will allow you to pay to dispose of your debris.
Instead of disposing of the leaves you can mulch them. You can do this by mowing over the leaves as they sit in the yard. You will need to do this multiple times. If you keep moving over the leaves until they are cut into very small pieces (around 1 centimeter in diameter), they will mostly decompose over the winter. In the spring you will have to pick up the larger pieces that did not decompose. Another option you can choose is picking up the mulched leaves and spreading them out lightly in your flower bed. They too will mostly decompose over the winter and any particles that survive through the winter can be picked up in the spring.
Common Fall Clean-up Mistakes:
There are a few common mistakes that can easily be avoided if you know about them in advance. The first mistake is performing the clean-up too early. Obviously you want to wait until the majority of the leaves have fallen, but you can't wait until all the leaves have fallen because by then it is likely that snow is falling too. If you are using a rake to collect the leaves in an area where the grass roots are not deep your rake may tear up the grass. The same goes for a powerful leaf blower. If you have an area in your yard with loose grass it is best to gently rake over it with a plastic rake (not metal), or use a weak leaf blower.
Hire a Professional or Do it Myself?
As I said earlier, fall clean-ups are one of the few services which most homeowners can do themselves. If you are looking to save money and are willing to spend upwards of five or six hours several times during the fall collecting leaves and driving them to the local yard waste collection site, great! It can be a rewarding accomplishment to work for hours in your yard and enjoy its beauty when completed. On the other hand, if you are willing to spend a little money, would like to save time, and would like your lawn to look as nice as possible, a professional is a way to go. They most likely do close to a hundred clean-ups a season so they know when to start and when it is too late, and they have more experience so they are less likely to make other mistakes. It could take you several days to do it yourself, but a professional can probably do it in a few hours.
How Much Does a Fall Clean-up Cost?
Each lawn care company charges a different amount for a fall clean-up based on their expenses. Most companies will have a set fee for the entire job, though it is not uncommon to be charged by the hour. In Minnesota, it is common to have a fall clean-up cost anywhere from four to six times the cost of a mow for your yard. In general, you can expect the cost to be between $200 and $400 a visit, depending on the size of your yard, the number of leaves, and the obstacles in your yard. If the company is charging per hour, it is common to cost between $60 and $120 per man-hour.