May 30, 2023

‘Tis the season — for raking.

getty images

Ah, fall. Such a pretty time of year, when the leaves turn a Crayola box of colors before dropping to the ground and turning our days into a living hell.

Or, at least, a headache for golfers, homeowners and superintendents.

Dave Ousterhout, a 24-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, is the top man in turf at Concord (N.H.) Country Club. The course he tends is a sylvan layout that plays through corridors of oaks, maples, hickories and…you get the picture.

Come autumn, the leaves never leave him alone.

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In the last five weeks or so, Ousterhout and his staff have spent more than 400 hours dealing with fallen foliage. Along the way, they’ve also found a lifetime’s worth of golf balls (frankly, Ousterhout says, he’s lost count), a bonus we can’t promise as you’re working in your yard.

What we can offer, though, are these three tips for handling leaves at home.

1. Work with the wind

Nae wind, nae raking. Wait. That’s not the saying. But here’s the point. What’s true in golf also applies to leaf-management. Pay attention to where the breeze is blowing and do yourself a favor: work with — not against — nature’s fan.

2. Give mulch thanks

Like most superintendents, Ousterhout has a fleet of machines at his disposal, which gives him several ways to deal with leaves. He can redirect them back into the woods, using a combo of backpack blowers and larger blowers attached to mowers. He can suck them up with outsize vacuums. And he can mulch them as he mows. He employs each of the three methods about a third of the time. It’s that last method — mulching — that homeowners often overlook.

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“If you have the ability to mulch, it’s worth doing,” Ousterhout says. “It turns those leaves into valuable nutrients for your lawn.” Up to a point. Too much of a good thing can be a problem. Excessive mulching can leave an unhealthy layer of ground-up leaves on your lawn. But this is something almost anyone can eyeball. To be extra safe, you can also wait to mulch until the trees are almost bare, and you’re down to the last few leaf-clearing sessions of the year.

3. Take an ounce of prevention

No one is suggesting you should aim to get every leaf off your lawn. But it’s worth removing as many of you can before the brunt of winter. Not only will it spare your lawn (layers of leaves left under snow can lead to mold and other problems) but it will also save you clean-up work come spring.

josh sens

Josh Sens Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.

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