I got fed up with raking leaves … been doing it for years, usually wait until they blow against the fence as they are easier to collect – but by then they are a soggy mess and the [mesh] fence is bowed under the weight …
So I splashed out and bought an AgriFab Leaf Sweeper – its 4′ wide and I can tow it behind my small tractor – and I also bought some other lawn care accessories whilst I was at it
All in all very impressed with the kit.
Not much to mention here. Brush height easily adjustable (and has a numbered index, so you can easily set it to “same as last time” – assuming you made a note of what that was!)
The long handle can be reached from the tractor seat, and pivots the basket emptying the contents. Videos I have seen show someone driving along, and then emptying the sweepings right in the middle of a lawn! what needs consideration is that it is not possible to drive the sweeper over a previous pile of leaves – it tries to seep them up again, of course. What I found best was to drive very close to my leaf mould composting site, tip the contents out, drive forward a bit and then push the leaves into the composting container, thereby leaving room for the next batch to be delivered. With plenty of space it would be possible to empty the next batch adjacent to the first, forming a wind-row, but that would mean shoving them a long way before they got to the compost bin.
By the by, I have found the best tool for “shovelling” leaves and the like is a snow shovel. Much easier than a rake or those plastic strap-on hand extensions. A snow shovel can be pushed along the ground moving all the leaves with it (the curve of the blade takes care of that), and can also be used to scoop them up onto the pile; it can also be used, vertically, like a rake to scrape up the last few bits. The blade on mine is made of robust plastic, I don’t know if they are all like that, but I doubt if something flimsy would do.
To adjust the height I set the sweeper on the lawn, somewhere level, and rotated the brushes by hand and adjusted the height until the brushes “Just” touched the ground. That seemed to work fine, although I did put them quite a bit lower when I swept up the cores from the aeration process (see below). Keep to a modest walking speed, as the sweeper is not designed to win a race.
I’ve been meaning to hollow-tine aerate my lawn, and to de-thatch it, for years and promise myself each year that I will hire some suitably hefty machinery … never happens though, so I splashed out on the AgriFab Hollow core aerator and de-thatcher; they are two component pieces which attach to a common “frame”, which keeps the cost down (the frame was about £100, and each of the attachments about £85) – probably not much more than the cost, with delivery, of hiring something just the once!
Having swept all the leaves off the lawn I ran the de-thatcher over it. I was able to do that at a bit more speed, and I didn’t put any extra weight on the top – the de-thatcher runs on skids, so I couldn’t see that adding weight would achieve anything (other than perhaps making the skids dig into the lawn!)
I ran front-to-back and then cross-ways left-to-right, and that seemed to have done a good enough job. It hasn’t been done for ages, so perhaps might have benefited from another pass, but I didn’t want to overdo it to start with.
Next up I ran the core-remover over it – I hesitate to call it “hollow-tine” as the tines are open on one side, with a 3/4 circle, sharp edged, blade on the end of each tine. I’ve often wondered if hollow tine machines get bunged up as I am on heavy clay. Strikes me that this arrangement, with the side of the tines “open”, means that soil is easily ejected and doesn’t get bunged up, and the cores are left neatly beside the holes.
I put three dense blocks on the accessory carrier, to weigh it down, and off I went (I had not raked up after de-thatching). Seemed to work well, I chose a slow driving speed as wasn’t sure if the cores might “jump” if I went faster. The cores penetrated well giving me holes about 2″ deep – we’ve had some rain recently, so I don’t know how it would perform if the ground was drier / harder.
There is a handle to “lower” the tines – so it is possible to travel to the start point of the work and then lower the tines. There is a clear label indicating “pinch point” but with the weight of the blocks on top the handle files back, as might be expected. I am not at all sure that the handle is strong enough to allow driving with the tines up whilst also carrying a serious weight of blocks on the top, so I decided it would be best to 1) lower the tines and then 2) put the blocks on top, and reverse the sequence when raising them (I did try to raise the tines with blocks on the top and I don’t reckon I would be able to, or there was risk of distorting the handle).
The inner pairs of tines are connected (and offset at 45 degrees, so not both in the soil at the same time), the outer pair are independent. All are joined to a tube which is free to rotate independently on the axle.
I read a review that said there was a problem when turning, as the tines ripped the lawn up, and more “serious” brands had axle support in the middle. There is no ball-bearing support in the middle but there is a metal plate (with a circular cut-out to match the axle tube) which presumably will give support in extremis, plus I think the tines being independent and not all inter-connected allows them to turn at different rates when cornering. Seemed OK to me anyway! maybe the reviews I saw were of an earlier iteration. When I needed to manoeuvre in tight corners I took the blocks off and then did my three point turn.
I left the cores on the lawn for 24 hours (dry weather) and then used the sweeper to pick them up. The brush height setting for leaves turned out to be not low enough for the cores – it missed some, but most of them just got swept forwards, like marbles, rather than collected into the hopper. After lowering the brushes collection was fine, I probably picked up about 80% of the cores. Beware that because they weight a lot more than leaves, and the bottom of the hopper is only a plastic sheet, and not a rigid material, that it is best to only collect a small amount of material before emptying (I raised the brushes when “driving” to the emptying site). I think the mixture of de-thatch grass/hay and soil from the aeration cores is going to make some excellent compost by next year.