Fall Clean Ups
What is a fall clean up?
Why is it so important?
And when does it need to be done?
Fall clean ups have become far more involved than they have to be. This is largely due to the fact that there is only a small window to get them done and with our busy schedules we're looking for any trick or gadget to expedite the process.
Simply put, a fall clean up is the clearing away of any debris you don't want stuck under the snow all winter.
Leaves are the priority as they fall to the ground and blow into piles covering gardens and lawns never to be seen again. While you're at it, it's good practice to remove any dead perennial or annual growth. It will be one less thing to do in the spring. If you think far enough ahead to cut the lawn really short in October, fewer leaves will stick and more leaves will blow across to the neighbors yard - let them clean them up...
If you're doing your own fall clean up your best bet is to mulch the leaves up weekly with your lawn mower. Don't wait until all the leaves fall - it makes for a daunting task. Mulch the leaves and rake or tarp them to the woods edge (on your property) or if there isn't a place to pile them so they'll decompose you'll be taking them to the brush dump. The key to self sufficient fall clean up is consistency. If you plan a weekly routine, you'll be cleaned up by the time it matters without killing yourself Thanksgiving weekend.
If you're hiring a crew to do your fall clean up for you you have a couple options, teenagers, craigslist or a professional landscaper. If you break it down and simply need the bulk of the work done I would honestly suggest having a crew of high school kids do the work - pay them $100 cash. Craigslist can be hit or miss. Most likely you'll have a guy come give you a fixed price and asked to be paid up front or the day it's finished. He may or may not do what you're expecting but he will likely be in hurry to get to his other clean up gigs and whatever you're left with when he's done will be up to you to finish. A professional crew will do a very thorough job and charge accordingly. With the manpower and equipment they will be using they are likely to charge upwards of $100/hour and after they've finished your half day clean up you'll find they blew away all of your bark mulch and need to call them back for a spring clean up, so beginning a cycle of seasonal property maintenance.
The most important part of your fall clean up is time. You need to get your clean up done before the leaves start freezing to the ground or snow falls. December first is the date professionals aim to have their clean ups complete. Maples fall first through October and Oaks fall last from middle to the end of November. Sure you'll have leaves falling through the winter but you'll get them in the spring. Get the bulk of the work done before December 1 and you'll be in good shape.
Scheduling help is another story however. Most professional companies have a list of regular customers to serve beginning the first week of November. Their list doesn't allow for much new business until Thanksgiving week and then it's crunch time. To repeat my earlier suggestion, ask around and see if you can get some kids to help. "Many hands make light work." If you're a young homeowner you should cherish the time spent in the yard on weekends with your partner, it's cheaper than a movie ticket. Here's a secret you may not know about yet, there are guys out there that will pick up your leaf piles. Its known as a "you rake em we take em" service. Find someone who will pick up your leaves for $50 cash. You can make a pile every weekend and have the pile picked up the following week until the work is done. Genius right?
So get on the phone or the web if you're going to hire help, they're schedules are filling up. If you're going to do the work yourself, get off the internet and get a rake before the hardware stores sell out and start stocking snow shovels.
Have fun and don't for get to stretch!