Turn over a new leaf with yard tools

Shredders, blowers and other gear make it easier to dispose of leaves

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In the endless autumnal struggle between man and leaves, man has never had as many weapons at his disposal as he does now.

Never before have the forces of modern technology and simple innovation been marshaled so effectively to clear our yards and lawns.

The result: The leaves no longer stand a chance, and man has been freed to spend more time doing what he does best on weekends -- clicking between football games with the remote.

Now as he fights the Leaf Wars, man -- and woman, of course -- can do everything from unleashing the awesome fury of something called the Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder to utilizing the low-tech brilliance of Gardex Leaf Scoops, which let you scoop leaves like some deranged garden version of Edward Scissorhands.

"Don't drag bag after bag of leaves to the curb, then pay to have them hauled away," advises the Web site of Vermont-based Gardener's Supply Co. (gardeners.com), makers of the Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder ($199).

Instead, by firing up the shredder's powerful 8-amp electric motor, homeowners can compact mounds of leaves, pine needles, grass clippings and what have you -- "wet or dry" says Gardener's Supply -- into a single bagful of mulch.

But if that's too hoity-toity for some, Gardener's Supply also offers the A-to-Z Caddy, a "giant flexible scoop" ($29.95) that looks like a dustpan on steroids. Just rake leaves onto the Caddy's huge (27 inches by 28 inches) molded plastic surface, then fold up the sides and dump the contents wherever.

But what if you can't immediately dispose of those leaves? For $12.95, Gardener's Supply offers Leaf Lock, "the all-natural corn by-product that forms a shell over the leaf pile, bonding it into place."

This is accomplished by spraying the pile with water, sprinkling on Leaf Lock, then spraying the pile again, supposedly rendering it impervious to wind gusts or anything less powerful than a John Deere front-end loader.

Too exotic for your tastes? Then there's always the Clean-up Canvas ($15) from online home-improvement superstore BuilderDepot, (builderdepot.com), which holds up to 20 cubic feet of yard waste, and ... well, let the folks at BuilderDepot take it from here:

"The Clean-up Canvas is like a little compost burrito. ... Fold up the four corners and clip them together, you've got a self-contained transportable bag."

A little compost burrito ... sure, one could see how that could work.

For those wedded to clearing leaves via the tried-and-true blower method, here's good news: Leaf blowers are getting lighter.

Home Depot sells the Toro Electric Power Sweep Blower ($29.99), which weighs in at less than 5 pounds but, Toro says, generates a powerful air blast of "up to 140 mph." That's more than Hurricane Wilma managed on its recent tear through Florida.

Lowe's home stores carry the Feather Lite from Weed Eater ($64.27), which is billed as "The World's Lightest Gas Blower" at just 7.5 pounds but is capable of 150 mph of blowing power.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, who could overlook the simple effectiveness of the Gardex Leaf Scoops ($6.49), available at Ace Hardware? Worn on the hands like a pair of giant, leaf-sucking catchers' mitts, the Leaf Scoop, according to its literature, is "a product so unique it was granted a U.S. patent." (A similar product, called Lawn Claws, is also sold at Ace and other home and hardware stores.)

The Scoops should appeal to the more fastidious homeowners, as they're said to be so effective they can even pick up small objects in a pile of leaves, such as tiny acorns.

The perfect thing for constructing, say, a little compost burrito.


Other uses

Don't trash your leaves, put them to work:

Pile them someplace where they can be left to break down into leaf mold; use them as compost when planting.

Mow them with a bagging mower; empty the bag where you need weed-free mulch.

Leave them around trees and shrubs; they serve as natural mulch and nutrients.



Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder (left), $199; Leaf Lock (center), $12.95 (Gardener's Supply; gardeners.com): Chop leaves into mulch or turn them into sculpture.

Gardex Leaf Scoops (right), $6.49 (Ace Hardware): Giant plastic mitts scoop piles of leaves.

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