Raking Leaves for Dummies

Sure, raking leaves is a chore, but it will be less taxing if you learn how to do it efficiently and safely—and try to have some fun while you're at it.

Raking Leaves

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Fall brings football, hot apple cider, pumpkin carving, and other seasonal delights. But for homeowners with deciduous trees on their property, autumn calls to mind one thing above all else: raking leaves. Those who dread this annual rite may take heart from the reminder that raking leaves isn’t only about looks. If neglected, a bed of fallen foliage can smother the grass you worked so hard to maintain over the summer. And while raking leaves may seem slightly intimidating to the uninitiated, some basic advice can help you take care of this chore in relatively short order so that you can return to your weekend plans.

1. Equipment: Use the right rake for the job
It’s worth investing in a good rake. For the purpose of raking leaves (as opposed to gravel, mulch, or planting soil), use a rake with a long handle and a wide spread of metal, plastic, or bamboo tines. This is known as a leaf rake, or sometimes a lawn rake. Conserve effort by using the full width of tines to maximize efficiency; by raking in this fashion, you are able to move more leaves with fewer extensions of the tool.

2. Timing: Wait for the last leaf to drop
As weeks pass and leaves collect, get-it-done-now homeowners may start to squirm, but it pays to have patience: There’s less work in raking lots of leaves one time than in doing smaller amounts on several different occasions. Sure, gather some leaves now for your compost bin, but postpone the bulk of the job until all the leaves have dropped. Remember also that dry leaves are much easier to move, so don’t tramp into the yard, rake in hand, the morning after a storm.

3. Execution: Take small bites
Imagine that your property is composed of different sections, then focus your attention on one area at a time, raking leaves onto a tarp (or failing that, a large sheet). From time to time, bring the corners of the tarp together and drag the leaves to your larger collection pile, whether that’s out on the curb or elsewhere. On a breezy day, let nature be your helper; position your tarp so you’re raking in the same direction that the wind is blowing.

4. Technique: Safety first
Raking leaves is physically taxing. Treat it like the athletic activity it is! Stretch out your hamstrings and hips before you start and after you finish. Protect your back by using short strokes—don’t reach so far that you bend at the waist. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated, even if you’re working on a crisp, cool day.

Above all, the best way to approach the task of raking leaves is with a sense of fun. Get the kids involved, and when you’re finished, celebrate with some cider and toasted marshmallows! Along the way, you’ll create memories to last well into winter and beyond.