If you have a medium to large-size yard dotted with deciduous trees, a lawn sweeper will make your life easier during fall clean-up (even more of the year if your sweeper will also pick up grass clippings). Essentially a sweeper is a set of four to six rows of brushes attached to an axle. The brushes catch the leaves and throw them into the rear collecting bag.
Sweepers usually are pushed, but several models can be towed behind a lawn tractor or riding mower.
To make the best use of a sweeper, your lawn should be smooth and level. Sweepers operate close to the ground, so any irregularities in your lawn can cause problems. Where the ground begins to rise, the sweeper’s front end may dig into it; in a depression, the brushes will skip leaves.
In selecting a sweeper, examine its construction. Is it built well enough to hold up under several years of strain?
On push models, most of the force is directed against the handlebars. These, ideally, should be connected directly to the wheels, not to a separate support system that could buckle while going up hills or over rough ground.
Also consider the rear bagger. It should be made of light canvas or heavy nylon to resist tearing and sagging. Plastic bags that tear easily will just cause you grief. The floor of the bag on a top-quality sweeper is made from galvanized steel or rigid fiberglass. Thus it is rustproof and it is sturdy enough to carry the load of leaves. Most of these good models have a small set of wheels or rollers to support the rear bag. Flooring made of just the bag material or soft vinyl tends to drag on the ground as the bag fills. This friction causes wear and increases your work.
The height of the brushes should be adjustable from 0 to 3 inches in five to eight settings. This is standard and enables you to adapt to different types of leaves and conditions. If you are picking up large, dry oak leaves, you might want a higher setting; however, small, damp leaves, such as willow, need a setting near the ground.
Standard Push Sweeper
This type of sweeper holds between five and seven bushels of leaves. The width usually ranges from 20 to 30 inches. If your lawn is less than perfectly smooth, choose a narrower model—it will fit better into any depressions, whereas the wheels on wider models may span the entire depression and not pick up the leaves.
Towed Lawn Sweepers
These models can be pulled by riding mowers or lawn tractors. In general they are identical to the push models, except that they are wider (they range from 25 to 35 inches) and have a larger capacity (usually seven to nine bushels). This larger capacity means that you need a good collection bag and floor. The tow bar usually is sold separately.
Some towed models have the bag in front of the sweeping brushes. This bag, supported by a frame connected to the tractor, eliminates the need to have small wheels in back. The leaves are picked up by two sets of brushes that throw them forward.
As with all garden equipment, keep the sweeper clean and dry when it isn’t in use. Wipe the steel frame with an oily rag to prevent rust. Because the wheel bearings are made of nylon and are enclosed, no oiling is necessary. Wash and brush the bag to remove fine material. Clean nylon bags with high-pressure water spray; direct it from the outside of the bag to the inside. Then let the bag dry completely.