Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How To Choose The Right Rake For Raking Leaves

My ears were assaulted this morning by the cacophony of half a dozen leaf blowers on my block. At about 75 decibels each, that was a lot of noise. Add to that the sounds of construction from the two McMansions they're building on my block and I've got a massive headache. I understand why landscapers use leaf blowers (to get the job done fast), but I won't be using one today, at least on my front yard.

Choose the right rake for capturing these beauties!

I prefer the elegance, the Zen of raking my leaves. But if you're new to the job, how do you choose the right rake?

Go to Home Depot or Lowes and you'll have your choice from a few types of rakes with the primary difference being that the tines are made of either metal, plastic, or bamboo. Rakes also come in varying widths, but don't think that a wider rake will get the job done faster. Experts say that because the tool produces more friction, it will just tire you out faster. A 24” rake is a good, all-around size for most adults.

The rake you probably need - a 24" plastic model, but read on...

The real difference is in the tines. Bamboo tines are the most light-weight and gentle on plants, especially if you're raking over groundcover or flower beds. Bamboo is also the most fragile, so expect those lovely tines to break easily. Metal tines are the most resilient, often come with tension bars to eliminate bending and breaking and are great on wet leaves, but not as effective if you're moving a lot of leaves. Plastic tines are sturdier than bamboo but, depending on the quality of the plastic, can break as well. These are on my family's “rakes of choice.” They're best when moving large quantities of leaves and have lasted a few seasons. They will, however, hurt plants if you yank at the leaves, so be careful when you're raking to pull and sweep, like a broom.

I think plastic tine rakes are the best overall. 

Also available are skinny shrubbery rakes with long tines which pull leaves out of shrubs without damaging the delicate plants. I've found that buying a plastic kids rake is just as good for doing this as long as you don't, again, yank the leaves.  Obviously, buying your kid a rake also encourages them to help out.  
This pretty red metal rake would be easy to see if you put it down.

One of the most impressive rakes I've seen is one that allows the user to adjust the fan width and handle height. And another has two heads that pivot and open to swallow leaves so you can dump them into your yard cart or bag without bending. Personally, I'm not spending the money for those. 

Make sure, before you start raking, that you warm up. There's a lot of hip, shoulder, and back movement in this chore and if you don't warm up, you'll feel about 90 years old tomorrow. If you're raking to bag leaves, you're best off sticking a tarp or cut-open garbage bag on the ground and raking the leaves onto that before you place them in bags. Our tried-and-true technique for bagging is to use one rake as a dustpan and another as a broom – just sweep the leaves with one onto the other. Don't forget to carry lawn gloves for when you need to clean fallen debris and place it into the bag.

Now that I've written about raking, it's time to go do it. It's a good calorie-burner, a great way to enjoy the diminishing sunlight, and one of the few chores I really enjoy. It's instant gratification – you rake, you see the results immediately. And I like the Zen state it puts me in. There's something peaceful about just raking leaves. Unlike the leaf blower, it doesn't assault the senses and with my landscaper charging $40 extra a week to do it, raking is a money-saver for the family.

Choose the right rake and get out and enjoy your lawn! See you outside!

Get your kids out and raking, too!   

As always, thanks for reading! 

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