The leaves are falling, so it’s just about time to choose your weapon.

In the constant battle to capture and dispose of the leaves that blanket your lawn this time of year, there are many weapons at your disposal. If you haven’t been to the hardware store for leaf-gathering tools in a few years, you’ll be surprised to find how big and diverse the arsenal of leaf gadgets has become.

There are leaf blowers — some are hand-held; others are worn around the shoulder. Then there are leaf vacuums, which look like blowers but suck the leaves into a bag that you wear on a shoulder strap or on your back. There are mulching mowers, which shred the leaves to a fine pulp and drop that pulp back onto your lawn.

If you want to go low-tech but modern, you can check out the newer types of rakes. These range from the non-clogging type with chunky, triangular teeth and ergonomic rakes to rakes that basically act like scoops and allow you to rake and pick up leaves in one motion.

The last leaves in Maine don’t fall until late November. And as any good Mainer will tell you, there’s no sense in raking twice. So that means you still have some time to decide what gadgets, gizmos and tools might be best for you and your yard.

To help you decide, here’s a breakdown of some of the pros and cons of each kind of tool.

LEAF BLOWERS

These are hand-held tools used to blow leaves into a pile. Depending on whether you get an electric one (generally cheaper) or a gas-powered one (generally more expensive), they can range from about $40 to about $300. Gas-powered ones allow you to go where you want, but with electric, you’re limited by your cord. Benefits include the fact that you don’t have to bend over or use any force, and you don’t get blisters on your hands. Cons: they can be loud, they can take a while, and you still have to pick up the piles at some point, unless your property borders a forest.

LEAF VACUUMS

These look like leaf blowers, but suck the leaves right up into the machine and into a bag worn on the back or suspended from a shoulder strap. They also come in electric and gas-powered, and start at around $40 for smaller, less powerful models.

The clear benefit is that you move and pick up the leaves all in one motion. But you spend much of your time with a bag of leaves around your shoulder or back, and you have to spend time emptying it. If you’ve got a lot of leaves, you could be emptying the bag every five to 10 minutes. And the nozzles on some models can get clogged fairly easily, so ideally, you’ll want to do this when leaves are dry and light.

Still, if you don’t want blisters and don’t like kneeling down on the ground to pick up leaves, this is a pretty good option.

Some machines are blowers and vacuums combined. And with some blowers, you can buy a vacuum adapter kit at an additional cost.

LEAF MULCHERS

If you have a mulching lawn mower, you might consider mulching your leaves. Or you can buy a mulching blade for about $20 or more and attach it. Mulching basically shreds the leaves and drops them back on your lawn as nutrients for the grass, so you just walk back and forth like when you mow your lawn. No bending, no pulling with your arms, no sore hands. Problems arise when there are too many leaves, resulting in a thick layer of mulch that won’t let grass breathe.

If you are going to mulch, lawn experts say you should consider the following advice: Mow leaves when dry to prevent clumping; push the lawn mower slowly to allow time to chop the leaves; and don’t allow more than 1 inch of leaves to accumulate before mulching.

RAKES

If you like the quiet, nostalgia and exercise of raking, you still have plenty of choices. And it’s not just metal versus bamboo versus plastic.

There are ergonomic rakes shaped with curved handles to help make raking less back-breaking. The Snake Rake by Sears ($39.99) is an aluminum, ergonomic rake that pivots, and is height-adjustable. The idea is that you shouldn’t have to bend over or put more stress on either side of your body.

Lowe’s is selling an expandable steel rake for $12. If you have wide-open spaces, you can expand the rake as wide as it will go and pick up as many leaves as possible. But in tight corners, you can make the rake much narrower, and get the leaves out without having to use your hands.

Most stores now carry clog-free rakes, designed so it’s more difficult for leaves to get stuck between tines. In a traditional rake design, tines are long and thin, and are lined up next to each other. On most clog-free rakes, the tines are large triangular teeth. The space between them is so wide, it’s hard for leaves to get stuck.

SCOOPS

Sears is also selling a rake/scoop called the “Amazing Rake” for $39.99. It sort of looks like a two-sided snow shovel with teeth. You rake the leaves, then use the hand to close the two shovel pieces together. Then you pick the wad of leaves up, hold it over a trash can or bag and move the handle so that the rake opens up to dump the leaves.

There are also plastic hand scoops that have gained popularity during the last few years, for about $6. They look like giant plastic baseball mitts with teeth. They strap onto your hands and allow you to pick up three or more times as many leaves as you would with just your hands.

You still have to bend over and get down on the ground from time to time, but the work will go faster.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]