This might be a crazy idea, but what about a propane weed burner? This is assuming that there isn't plastic underneath the rocks.
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. Well, if they got there by a leaf blower, a leaf blower ought to be able to send them back whence they came.
Some leaf blowers can convert into vacuums, maybe you could suck up the leaves.
and possible the gravel too?
Nah, it's too heavy to be picked up.
Actually, the gravel does frequently get sucked up along with the debris and makes quite a racked when it hits the mulcher (of course I only do this type of yardwork in the mid to late afternoon out of respect for the late sleepers). What is the most powerful vaccum that I can use at a distance, so as not to pick up the gravel but the most of the debris, any ideas?
What you need is to use a flare on the vacuum nozzle. If the nozzle is 2" in diameter, use a flare with a diameter of 4" to 6" in diameter that is at least 6" long. This will still pull in leaves, but will not pull in heavy gravel at all. See your local Home Depot or similar for potential solutions in "ductile supplies".
Hmmm, if you've already tried aleaf vacuum then I'm not sure what to suggest. You could use a more powerful vacuum held at a greater distance, but the effect might be the same.
The problem is that it has rained since they debris arrive, causing it to settle deep into the gravel. When I rake it, the debris just goes deeper.
What's wrong with leaf debris? It will probably get crunched up eventually and just disappear on its own. I would avoid using a leaf blower at all costs, since they are about one degree away from being the devil himself.
Probably the most effective way is to speak with your neighbor about the issue first, then request that he take them back. haha.
Is the gravel in a place that gets lots of travel, or is it purely decorative?
The area does not get much travel but because I live in an HOA I would have to say it is primarily decorative but also helps prevent wind from kicking up dust.