Maintaining quality turfgrass sometimes requires that lawn waste be picked up. This trash can include leaves, pine needles and grass clippings as well as twigs, seed pods from trees, pine cones, etc. Many different types of equipment are available to help with this job.
In many cases, a good mulching mower (or even a good side-discharge mower) can chop up and mulch lawn waste, then blow it back down into the turfgrass to decompose without your having to remove it from the lawn. If you must collect clippings, leaves or pine needles, consider some of the following equipment.
A long-handled lawn rake is the least expensive way to pick up lawn trash. If your lawn is small, you can pick up grass clippings, leaves or pine needles with a rake. A lawn rake works much better than a garden rake, especially in Southern lawns. A garden rake will snag in the tillers put out by Southern grasses such as centipede and
Grass Catchers on Mowers
Many lawn mowers can be equipped with grass catchers (Figure 1). Most walk-behind mowers can be equipped with bagging attachments to collect clippings and other waste. Riding mowers (including zero turning radius mowers) and many mower decks on lawn and garden tractors can be equipped with collection systems using a powered blower to pick up and compress the clippings or other waste. These units may have a hopper instead of a bag and may be powered by the tractor or mower engine or by a separate engine. They may be rear-mounted on the tractor or mower or mounted on a trailer pulled behind.
Although all of these devices are primarily intended for collecting grass clippings, they can also collect leaves and pine needles. One advantage of catchers or collectors on mowers is that the mower shreds the material somewhat before it is collected, thus allowing the material to be compressed in the collector.
A push-type or pull-type lawn sweeper is a relatively inexpensive way to collect lawn waste (Figure 2). A sweeper is old technology, but it's still effective for many types of lawn waste. The rotating brush will pick up grass clippings and most leaves. It will not dig small leaves out of turf, nor will it handle all types of large leaves. It may plug up with some types of pine needles. It will not shred or compress lawn waste.
Several companies make wheeled lawn vacuums that suck up lawn waste and blow it into a bag (Figure 3). Like collectors on tractors, they do some shredding and compaction. One type has a wide intake snout and is pushed over the lawn like a lawn mower. Others have a hose you direct to pick up piles of lawn waste.
After collecting your self-generated lawn waste, you should compost it rather than sending it to a landfill. All types of lawn waste can be composted and the resulting compost used for mulch or soil amendment around your yard.