What are leaf blowers and mulching vacuums? 

 
     
     
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Leaf blower

 
 Three different leaf blowers 

A leaf blower is a garden tool with a small motor at one end that forces a concentrated jet of air through a nozzle. You can use it instead of a rake or broom to tidy up fallen leaves by blowing them into piles.  

 

Large leaf blowers are usually driven by petrol engines, and small ones by electricity (either corded or with rechargeable batteries).

 
     
 Blowing grass clippings off path with leaf blower 

What can you use leaf blowers for?

Obviously, their primary function is for blowing leaves! But they will also shift grass cuttings, thin twigs and other small pieces of garden detritus. Some people use them to blast dirt and dust out of their garage, greenhouse, shed or car boot as well.  

 
     
 Using leaf blower on gravelled surface Leaf blowers are particularly good at removing debris from loose surfaces which would be disturbed by a rake. These include gravel driveways and paths, and areas covered in mulch or bark.    
     
 Professional gardener using backpack leaf blower Professionals generally use so-called backpack leaf blowers - heavy duty petrol-powered machines worn on the back - but this guide will be focusing on smaller, hand-held machines intended for domestic use.  
     
   

Blower vacuum 

 
 Three different blower vacs 

A blower vacuum can be used both to blow leaves and to suck them up into an attached bag. Most of them will also shred the debris and reduce it to mulch, which you can put on your flowerbeds or compost heap. 

 

They are known by many names including leaf vacuum, blower or garden vac, vacuum shredder, and blowing and mulching vacuum. Most of them are corded electric machines, although some run on petrol.

 
     
 Using blower vacuum around patio furniture 

What can you use blower vacuums for?

Sucking up a large amount of leaves can take a long time, so many people prefer to use the vacuum mode of a leaf blower mainly in smaller and less accessible places that you couldn't easily reach with a rake. These jobs may include removing leaves from around patio furniture and pots, pathways, rocks and shrubs, and next to walls and fences.

 
     
 Dual and separate nozzle blower vacuums 

There are two designs of blower vacuum:

  • Separate nozzle

  • Dual nozzle 

 
     
 Blower vac with separate nozzles  

Blower vacuums with separate nozzles have two tubes: a wide one for vacuuming and a narrower one for blowing.

 

To switch from one setting to the other, you have to change over the nozzle and attach or detach the collection bag, depending on whether you're going to use the vacuum or blower feature. 

 
     
 Dual nozzle blower vac  

Dual nozzle machines have two parallel tubes permanently attached, and can be converted from blow to vacuum mode by turning a switch or lever. 

 

Although these types of blower vacuum are more convenient, they are usually smaller and less powerful than those with separate nozzles. 

 
     
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