High-Powered Leaf Wranglers
This yard-clearing arsenal stands at the ready to turn that age-old chore into less of one
When the leaves start piling up this fall, don't sweat it. Our high-powered yard-clearing arsenal stands at the ready to turn that age-old chore into, well, less of one.
The job hasn't changed, but the tools sure have. Some blow, some vacuum, some grind—and some do it all. But any of these will get it done faster than a lone rake.
1. Padded handles and a throttle lock to reduce hand strain.
2. A twist-lock bagging tube with a spring-loaded release that won't come loose.
3. Metal impellers, sharper and more durable than typical plastic ones.
4. Vacuum tubes you can attach and take off without needing a tool.
5. An easy-start engine like this one, whose cord takes 30 percent less force to yank it to life than previous models.
Unlike most blower vacs, there's no need to swap tubes for vacuuming and blowing, since both nozzles are built in—just flip a switch to change modes. Reach is limited by the length of your extension cord, but on the upside, the 12-amp motor will never run out of gas or need a fuel-line flush. Its plastic impeller reduced dry-leaf volume by 10 to 1 but, not surprisingly, struggled with wet ones.
Fine print: Blower speed: 350 cfm at 210 mph, maximum. 70 dB.
About $90, 8.4 pounds; worxtools.com
For small areas, like a patio or walkway, leave the rake in the shed and reach for this lightweight 18-volt battery-powered blower. You get a nice little gale at the pull of the trigger, with no worries about maintenance or the limited reach of a cord. The lithium-ion battery has about a 15-minute runtime and takes about 60 minutes to recharge.
Fine print: Blower speed: 200 cfm at 120 mph. 55.1 dB.
About $100, 4.2 pounds; ryobitools.com
For expansive, tree-filled yards with thick carpets of leaves, this push blower with its heavy-duty 208-cc gas engine is the fastest way to clear off the lawn. (At that point, you'll want to toss the leaves into a chipper-shredder, like the one at right.) The 89-pounder rolls easily enough on its solid rubber wheels, but you'll want to protect your ears against its wail—it's a bit louder than a mower.
Fine print: Blower speed: 1,000 cfm at 150 mph. 100 dB.
About $500, 89 pounds; cubcadet.com
Need to cut towering piles down to size? The hopper of this heavy-duty beast swallows wads of leaves, not to mention sticks less than ½ inch in diameter, and pulverizes them with a spinning blade and a dozen steel flails. Then it sends them to a voluminous, 6.2-cubic-foot bag. A separate chute equipped with steel knives chips branches up to 2 inches across. The 4-cycle, 205-cc gas engine never hesitated.
Fine print: 112 dB.
About $650, 200 pounds; troybilt.com
Every blower vac claims it can push leaves into piles and grind them into confetti. The Echo actually lives up to the promise, thanks largely to four steel blades that instantly reduce wet and dry leaf volume by 12 to 1. In blower mode, the easy-start 2-cycle engine smoothly cranks out 342 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air: plenty of power to clean up a yard with a handful of trees. That said, using it—or any handheld blower—longer than 30 minutes gets tiring. We ran it full tilt for about an hour before the fuel tank needed a refill.
Fine print: Blower speed: 342 cfm at 155 mph. 70 decibels (dB).
About $330, 9.7 pounds; echo-usa.com
Husqvarna's sleek backpack blower (356BT) pumps out 473 cfm of air at 177 mph while keeping the noise level to an eardrum-friendly 64 dB—barely louder than a conversation. Still, many ordinances restrict the hours when a blower of any type can be operated.
About $480, 23 pounds; husqvarna.com
Keep from chasing in circles with this systematic strategy.
A. Clean inside corners. Either suck them up with a blower-vac or aim the blower nozzle down at the corner to blast out the leaves.
B. Use the wind. Start on the yard's upwind side and blow with the breeze.
C. Do the perimeter. Go around the edge of the property, working from the back to the front of garden beds, decks, and patios. Extract any stuck leaves with an 8-inch shrub rake.
D. Move to the lawn. Direct the leaves toward the center of the lawn and concentrate them in one or more medium-size piles. Gather any strays with a 24-inch leaf rake.
Tip: "A good leaf rake—one with thick plastic tines, a 24-inch-wide head, and a wood handle—is the best way to clean off small lawns and a must for getting any leaves a blower can't.”—Roger Cook, TOH landscape contractor