The autumn season brings countless wonderful changes, including bright colors, cooler temperatures, delicious tastes, and amazing scenery. That is, until the scenery starts falling - the leaves don't look nearly as good covering your lawn as they do still fluttering on the trees. While you can use leaf blowers or other appliances to remove them, those appliances tend to be noisy, bad for the environment, and some even take nearly as much time as the go-to alternative: raking. Your best bet is to stick with the golden standard of sunny October mornings, pull on your gloves, and get raking.
Amazingly enough, there's quite a lot of debate over a task that seems so simple. Should you rake once or twice during the season, or more often? Is any old rake you've got stored in the shed good enough? Is it even possible to rake fall leaves without injuring your back? Luckily, we've done the research and have answers to all that and more, helping you move out of "raking season" and back into the wonders that autumn is actually all about.
Tip 1: Use the Right Kind of Rake
No, not all rakes are created equal. For such a simple tool, there are a variety of options to choose from, but there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind. Plastic rakes are a good option: they’re lightweight and last practically forever. Look for no-clog options, where the tines won't pierce through leaves, which means you won't have to stop as often to get the leaves off of the rake. There are other options to consider, including ergonomic options that have bent handles and/or additional handles to keep you upright. Finally, choose the size of your rake wisely: larger rakes (30+ inches) will collect more leaves at once, but are better if you're used to heavier yardwork. Adjustable rakes allow you to reach into those harder-to-get-to spots too!
Tip 2: Use the Right Technique (the Big Picture)
Some experts advise homeowners to rake once or twice a season; others suggest much more often. To save yourself time (and energy, especially), we suggest raking up to once a week, when leaves are really coming down. Not only will it take you less take every time you pull out the rake, but when leaves sit on your lawn they trap water and become wet and heavy, meaning raking the same amount of leaves will take you longer and will be harder (and you'll have more leaves, since you left them for weeks). Try to pick dry, less windy days as rake-days and if it is windy, rake the leaves downwind (the same direction the wind is blowing). Also, make sure you have a good tarp to rake leaves onto, as it makes them much easier to move. Move the tarp when the leaf pile reaches a couple of feet tall.
Tip 3: Use the Right Technique (the Details)
Raking is something most of us are taught as kids, but there are tons of people who don't actually know how to rake well. To avoid injury, you should be standing straight and only bending at the knees if you can't reach a certain area (not from the waist). Also, turn your whole body rather than twisting your spine to keep it protected. Rake in short sweeps rather than long ones, as you'll get more leaves more quickly that way. After about 10 minutes of raking, switch to your other hand (it might be clumsy at first but you'll get used to it quickly, trust us). Switch off every 10 minutes to keep the work even between both sides of your body.
Tip 4: Know Your Limits
If you've recently injured your back, or if your yard is huge and detailed, it might be worth it to call in a professional at least once during the fall season. Some of your leaves can be shredded and left, returning precious nutrients to your grass, and a contractor can help make that happen. If you don't know of anyone who provides these kinds of services (other than the neighborhood kids looking to earn a few dollars), check in with your landscaper - they probably have a sense of who'll really help and who's just looking to rake in the dollars along with the leaves this fall. While it's not worth it every week, once a season can make a huge difference when spring arrives...and what the heck, why not give those kids a call some other week too? Until then, take advantage of these tips and you’ll be back inside in no time!