This time last year, our poor yard was so covered in sawdust and our contractor’s bevvy of tools that we never really stopped to realize that our front lawn (more of a dirt patch at that point) was almost entirely shaded by 3 mature trees. Why does this matter now you ask? After a few brisk days, those three trees were tricked into thinking that autumn was already here, and it started dropping leaves like it was going out of style.

This is only the second time in our lives that we’ve had a “real” yard to take care of (and a first in Chicago!), so managing the oncoming mountain of leaves is a little bit outside of our wheelhouse. After realizing that we’d quickly be fighting a losing battle if we didn’t get ahead of the leaves early, we partnered with our pals over at Ace Hardware to involve some heavy artillery. Toro Electric Blower/Vac to the rescue!


On no less than three occasions, Kim has been absolutely convinced that we’ve found a way to murder our newly planted lawn. (I’m not saying she’s overly dramatic, but I’m not saying she isn’t…) Each time we’ve raked it, walked on it, or that one time we held a yard sale (literally, in our yard), she was sure we’d wasted time and energy planting it in the first place. A blower/vac was the perfect solution to remove and pulverize the leaves without harming the grass. Yeah!


After a few minutes easily blowing the leaf litter out of our grass and small mulch bed, I switched over to vac mode and sucked everything up into the included bag. The upside to city living? It took no more than fifteen minutes, and our lawn was leaf free! Nice. Side note: The photo below was taken before I had finished blowing the leaves, hence the, um, super leaf-y yard. I may have been excited to give the vacuum a test run!


And because you all know Ace is all about sharing the love and helping you check off your to-dos, together with the Ace crew, we’ll be giving away a $100 Ace Hardware gift card to one lucky reader! The giveaway runs through Tuesday, September 30th at 5pm CST; simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. The winner will be announced within this post by Tuesday evening. Good luck and happy entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


We’re excited to be collaborating with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel! Ace has provided us with the tools necessary to complete this project (hey, thanks, Ace!), and all opinions are our own.

84 replies on “Caring for a “Real” Yard (+ a Giveaway!)”

  1. For a newbie, lawn trimming is great way to keep a lawn looking neat, not my favorite thing to do, i do like to blow the leaves.

  2. I have two sweet gum ball trees in my back yard. What were folks thinking when they planted those. Always a huge fall clean up but blowers make it easier. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Believe it or not, I have never gardened before (I suffer from a bit of a black thumb). This fall I’ve been itching to rip out our overgrown flower beds in the front yard, which are 10% flowers and 90% weeds, and start fresh with some bright and cheerful hardy mums. I’d be starting from scratch so would love to get a full set of gardening shovels, gloves, and bags of mulch. Hopefully since they’re “hardy” I will have a harder time killing the mums…

  4. I would love to have some sort of saw! We need some DIY tables and that would make me complete that project quick!

  5. Here in SoCal, some trees drop leaves a little at a time all year rather than all at once in the fall. I had all my lawn removed and replaced with low-water plants but I would still love a blower to deal with that constant leaf litter!

  6. Love to get out in the fall and rake up the leaves and clean up the yard…great excuse to get new tools to help!

  7. We could really use a come-along, to get some pesky stumps out of our yard….Although I’ve always thought that margaritas are the best yard tool – they make everything a bit easier!

  8. Something to edge our lawn. We have a push mower. Not sure the options for a portable option for cutting the edges. Shears?

  9. We love Ace, but just lost the one in Bridgeport. I guess we’re on the hunt for a new one!

  10. Oh my heavens – our new house has such a large yard (we were formerly city dwellers too!) that we’re struggling to keep up. A gift card to Ace (the ONLY store in our tiny town!) would be just the thing to help us get our ducks in a row before winter sets in. Many thanks for the great giveaway!

  11. Before today, I would have answered with(besides a quality mower) a pressure washer. But now I’m thinking that I need that Toro! I’ve never seen a leaf blower with a vac feature.

  12. Umm any tools would be great! I think we only have a hammer and a screwdriver… we do any building at my in-laws house!

  13. Oh man, whatever tools will help us clear the overgrown landscaping in the back yard. Weeds, vines, and extra growth everywhere!

  14. would love a blower, and a saw, and a tiller….the list could go on a while!

  15. I would love $100 to get going on my kitchen and bath painting projects!

  16. We bought a house less than a year ago, and my husband was just talking about getting one of these leaf blower/sucker things.. this would be perfect! We have a ton of trees and will have a ton of leaves!

  17. A gift card would be great! My wife and I need another leaf blower so we, both, can use one at the same time. Living in an established neighborhood with hundreds of trees means thousands and thousands of leaves that fall. We love the change of seasons, but not the leaves that fall…

  18. We’ve lived in our house for three years now and I still have yet to figure out our drip irrigation system. Between the timer sometimes just not working at all and wildlife digging up the drip lines, I have to check on every plant every single day.

  19. Thanks for the opportunity to fund some home improvement projects! I want to rejuvenate my balcony garden.

  20. This is a great time of year to get a jump on the lawn (with the cooler weather). I need to do major landscape overhaul.

  21. Just found your site recently. Enjoying reading through your old posts!

  22. Our house has 1 mature tree but our neighbors have quite a few and all of their leaves somehow end up in our yard. We spend countless hours raking leaves and while they are beautiful, I sometimes wish their was an easier way to collect them all. Your house is coming together beautifully, thank you for sharing it with us along the way.

    – Jaime

  23. We are in the thick of home reno’s too! Would love to put this towards finishing our office.

  24. A chain saw would be really cool to have. Lots of branch debris in my partially wooded yard that needs to be cut into refuse approved sizes.

  25. Oh man! I do not miss the days of raking leaves on our giant yard in Kansas. Our lot was so big that it would have fit three small bungalows (that is, if they all had the same square footage as the one we were living in). The “back 40” we didn’t even try to maintain but the front lawn was an exercise in raking and bagging. Phew! Makes me tired just thinking about it. Glad we live in a condo now and someone else maintains the grounds :P

  26. Living in a condo, I don’t have yard maintenance. Yay! But I would like to try my hand at refinishing my kitchen cabinets, so I need to invest in a sander.

  27. 35+ bags of leaves every year. This would certainly help the process. :)

  28. We are about to close on our first house and I just realized that we will be needing a lot of yard tools! It’s unbelievable how much it’s actually going to cost just for the basics, ha.

  29. I need several tools for the yard but as far as a diy project in the yard I need a post hole digger to add some fencing for my pups.

  30. I’ve been wanting to make my own acrylic art frames, and I need a power screwdriver (#diynewbie), which would also be helpful for other projects (instead of always calling the men in my life) :)

  31. A flamethrower? I kid, I kid. We don’t have much of a yard now and a mow now and then does it for us. I really want to get a small shed for the seasonal equipment. Snow blowers and mowers take up a ton of space.

  32. About five thousand rooms in our house need to be painted. But paint is expensive. I would totally buy paint.

  33. A finish nail gun and/or a floor stapler for installing hardwood floors… can you tell what DIY is on the to do list for me?

  34. Looks like fun! This would come in handy even for our little cement patio. Stuff gets blown through the fence from the landscapers and off the roof, and this would be a lot easier than sweeping! ;)

  35. Oh wow, that leaf blower looks amazing. We have been doing the old rake thing for years now, and when I say we, I really mean me. And since we’re expecting our first baby in a month, I don’t know that either of us will have time or energy for the rake this year! (Sorry neighbors.)

  36. We’re buying our first house and it has a large yard, so we’re going to need a riding lawn mower for the first time!


  37. Sorry in advance for the negative comment, but don’t you think a blow/vac for your size yard is overkill. I have a HUGE yard at our country house and I rake the old fashioned way. This is the first time that a sponsor post has bothered me. sorry :(

    1. No worries, thank you for chiming in! It was definitely nice to have, as the first time we raked our yard (before we got the blower/vac), a LOT of our new grass came up with it. I was so sad and thought for SURE we killed it all! (Luckily, it has since recovered!) For now, it’s great for our baby grass, but perhaps in the coming seasons, a rake will come in handy if we do quick upkeep.

  38. We just recently relocated to the Midwest, and we bought a new home here. The house looks fine from the street, with the exception of the roof. The roof is only 10 years old, but it has discoloration from algae(I presume). Up close, the brick and siding from our home is dingy, and the walkways all have moss stains. I tried power washing everything(except for the roof), and had decent results. For the roof I researched and found a product called Wet and Forget that is made for roofs, but also works on all of the other outdoor things I need to clean. The store locator on their site lists Ace Hardware as the only retailer in my area that sells it.

  39. I could use a gas powered blower! Our present configuration with extension cord is such a pain.

  40. A gas powered edger…or a rear-time rototiller are the two things that would make our lawn care much easier. Love your updates!!

  41. Painting is not new to me but figuring out how to texture the patches left from having the ceramic towel bar removed is a new experience. Think I’m going to see how well “orange peel in a can” works. Then repainting the bathroom so we can sell the house.

  42. The blower/vac combo is a great idea! Never saw the point in just the blower. Our HOA maintenance people “clean” by blowing all the leaves into people’s patios every Monday!

  43. I love fall… love it! We just moved to an acreage from a small one bedroom apartment, and we have a HUGE tree in our backyard… I love that tree, but it has lost every single leaf in the last week and we have had to resort to just mowing over them.. why you ask? Well let’s just say that we didn’t have many outdoor tools/equipment having moved from a one bedroom condo…slowly but surely!

  44. We don’t have any actual trees in our yard but both neighbors trees go over into our yard. Ready for leaves!

  45. i would love to learn how to hang window treatments from the ceiling on my own. i can sew and i know where to buy the fabric, but i have not taken the time to learn how to install ceiling-hung curtains!

  46. We built out house two and a half years ago. When we were building I had a very optimistic list of things I was going to do in the first year. Ha! I’m still working at the tip top of the list – there is so much left to do, and it’s not happening as fast as I had hoped. Both money and ability are holding me back – also laziness.

    I could use some good tools, to be certain. I feel like all of our money goes into tools, paint, repairing things (usually tools or machines like the lawn mower) and house stuff in general.

    I would love to have some pruners. We borrowed our neighbors, and they were sweet about it, but it would be great. I would also like to have a tiller. Wouldn’t that be swell??

  47. We would love to have some gardening tools. The former owners of our home clearly loved to landscape (maybe to an extreme) and there are 20+ varieties of plant in our yard. We need to remove / move / restructure so that it doesn’t look quite so disorganized.

  48. that looks awesome! it would prevent so many arguments between me and my husband about raking leaves :)

  49. Love how easy it is to enter your contest, and love Ace Hardware. Thank You

  50. We don’t even have a shovel or a hose. I’d start out with those.

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