How to clean sweet gum balls from lawn

Written by elizabeth chaplin
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How to clean sweet gum balls from lawn
The sweet gum tree drops prickly balls. (peterleabo/iStock/Getty Images)

Sweet gum trees are native to southern Illinois in the United States, but can be found all over the world. With their tall, straight stature, streak-patterned wood and glossy leaves that become vibrantly colourful in the autumn, sweet gum trees are attractive additions to any front garden. However, their beauty does not come without a price. The sticky balls that grow on the trees’ branches eventually harden and fall to the ground between December and April. These brown, spiky balls are a hazard to anyone with bare feet, small children and animals. Maintain your garden by removing these ugly sweet gum balls.

Things you need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Plastic container
  • Rake
  • Rolling nut picker-upper

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    Pick up

  1. 1

    Pick up the sweet gum balls by hand while wearing a pair of gardening gloves. To make this job faster, have friends, family members and neighbours help you. Place the balls in a plastic container.

  2. 2

    Rake the sweet gum balls into a pile with a standard leaf rake. Put the spiny balls to good use by using them as a mulch to keep pests like slugs, snails and rabbits out of your garden.

  3. 3

    Roll over your lawn with a rolling nut picker-upper like the Nut Wizard or Pecan Picker Upper. These devices are typically made up of rounded cages attached to a long handle, so you do not have to bend over to pick up nuts or sweet gum balls from your lawn.

    Reuse or dispose

  1. 1

    Donate your sweet gum balls to fellow gardeners or crafty neighbours. Dried sweet gum balls can be used in craft projects like ornament making or home decorations.

  2. 2

    Burn the remaining unwanted sweet gum balls. These spiny balls are good fire starters.

  3. 3

    Place the collected sweet gum balls in areas where dogs or cats mark their territory on your lawn. This is a natural way to repel animals from marking.

Tips and warnings

  • Make a game of picking up sweet gum balls with your children by having a contest to see who can gather the most. Ensure they are wearing long trousers, protective shoes and gloves.
  • During the holidays, have your kids paint and decorate dried sweet gum balls while wearing protective gloves. Thread a loop of fishing line through the ball to make a festive ornament.

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