We’ve all seen the heart-warming ads where children and dogs jump into this huge pile of leaves and they almost make it seems like leaf-raking is the ultimate way to spend time with the family, enjoy fall, find pleasure in the small things and so on and so forth (and what have you). The truth of the matter is nobody likes raking leaves. Not unless it’s the only peace and quiet moment in your day and you enjoy being outside in the cold, with your headphones on and listening to your favorite music. Unless you’re that kind of person, raking leaves are just as tedious for you as it is for us.
Thankfully, people were ingenious enough to hack this whole leaf raking business and found clever ways and tips to make this chore less boring and less time-consuming.
Why Should We Rake Leaves?
Whenever you’re faced with a home chore, you always end up wondering “Do I really have to do this?”. In order to understand the importance of raking leaves, it’s best to explain what happens if we don’t do it
First of all, your lawn needs to breathe. Imagine what would happen if you covered your flowers with a rug. The grass can easily get smothered under the carpet of leaves if you don’t have them removed by snowfall. Even more, there is a high chance that all sorts of unwanted critters will make cozy shelters under the bed of leaves and you don’t want that to happen. Depending on the area where you live, we would even be talking snakes.
Additionally, the bed of leaves can act as a barrier that prevents water and nutrient from entering the soil. Not to mention the fact that your grass needs fresh air to get to its roots.
A Different Approach
A couple of years ago, The Washington Post published an article with a very different approach to leaf raking. After doing a little bit of research and talking to a couple of specialists, they concluded that leaf raking is quite an unnecessary task and it would actually be better if you looked at the matter from a different perspective.
Having spoken to a turf grass researcher from a university, going over your “fall garden carpet” with a lawnmower is actually a better idea not just for your tired arms, but also for the sake of your soil. Due to the organic matter inside them, leaves can be beneficial to the soil in the long run. Even more, since you don’t need any fancy rakes to get rid of leaves, this can help you save time and money. Even more, should your current lawnmower have a chute or a bag, close it up to make sure that the leaves are left in the mower and chopped up?
As you’ve guessed by now, this process helps transfer nutrients from the leaves into the soil, thus pushing your grass towards better growth for next year. Studies were also conducted to confirm or destroy the myth that said that too many organic materials transferred from the leaves into the ground changes the soil’s chemistry and causes it to be less fertile. Myth busted!
But here is where things really get interesting. Studies have shown that there is another hidden benefit of getting rid of leaves by running them over with a lawnmower: they can suppress weeds. Apparently, mulching leaves can reduce dandelion apparitions with about 84% in the next season.
Wait, you didn’t think it was that simple, did you? There is such a thing as too many leaves, and experts suggest that you remove some of them before the lawnmower vs. leaves carnage starts. Long story short: the leaves-to-grass ration needs to be about 50-50. In other words: if you stare at the ground and see more leaves that the ground beneath them, you will need to remove some of them to even out the balance. If your yard happens to have a garden, feel free to dump the excess leaves there over the winter. They will decompose and compost the soil.
The Traditional Way
If you’re not entirely convinced about the efficiency of the aforementioned methods, let’s talk about the traditional way of raking leaves. So, let’s go over the best practices that are used to rake leaves.
First of all, make sure you invest in a quality rake. The rake should be lightweight, as to make it easy on you to maneuver it. It should also have a handle that’s long enough to avoid too much bending over and back problems. A rake with a wide end means that you can rake more leaves at once.
While raking, make sure that your body is always in a proper position. Not only does this help you rake more efficiently, but it should also prevent exhaustion before the job is done. When grabbing the handle of your rake, make sure you do so with both hands and also switch hand positions every now and then. Your knees should be slightly bent, but not too much as to cause strain on your waist and legs. It will also be easier if you rake the leaves towards you, as you take steps backward.
For easier raking, you should look for ways to avoid going to the trash can or whatever spot you drop your leaves on after more than necessary. There are a lot of ways to solve this problem. You can use a large bag and place it next to you at all times. Empty it whenever it’s full of leaves. Alternatively, you can use a wheelbarrow for the leaves, a cardboard box or even a tarp. The goal is to have a recipient with generous space so that you won’t have to travel too much to the dumping spot after picking up a rake-full of leaves.
In order to have more leaves fit into the bag/cardboard box/any other leaf recipient, stomp on the leave to press them and make more room for others. This will help you use as much space as possible. But careful, if you’re using a large bag, stomping on the leaves to make room for more could cause you to fill the bag with so many of them, it will eventually be too heavy to lift up at the end.
When to Rake
If you’ve just moved into a new home before having lived most of your life into an apartment, then you have to be prepared for the yard-related chores that come with the ownership of a house. And since you’ve probably never dealt with raking leaves while you were living in an apartment, then you’re not really sure when is the right time to start raking and how often it needs to be done. While there isn’t an exact rule and a precise answer, there are some hints that will tell you to pick up the rake and start cleaning the yard.
Generally speaking, it isn’t recommended to leave the leaves (no pun intended) on the grass for more than 4 days. But this also depends on a series of other factors, like how wet the leaves are and how thick or thin the layer of leaves is. Wet leaves are heavier, which means that the grass under them is being smothered, just as it happens when too many leaves start to pile up.
It’s also important to consider the size of your yard and plan accordingly. Obviously, having a bigger yard means you need to allocate a larger time slot to perform this chore. Also, if you have a lot of trees, that also means more work, so you’ll have to start early. Another important factor is the equipment you’re using. People who own a leaf-blower will have a much easier job than people who use a normal leaf rake.
Choosing a Leaf Rake
While there are a lot of tools that people use to rake leaves, most prefer the traditional rake. As you can imagine, there are good rakes and bad rakes and there is an entire process you have to go through before buying one, as you need to understand what makes a leaf rake appropriate.
Leaf rakes should be designed to be light because you will often find yourself fiddling with it for hours and you don’t want it to take a toll on your body by being too heavy and straining your arms. On a general note, most leaf rakes are lightweight and their heads are shaped like fans. They have springy tines that are radiated outwards. The reason why these times are springy is that you don’t want them to damage the grass underneath while you’re raking leaves. You need to able to glide the head of the rake gently over the leaves without having the tines stick into the ground or scratching the surface.
There are all sorts of materials used to construct a rake: from bamboo, polypropylene and even steel. While steel rakes are believed to be sturdier, bamboo and polypropylene rakes won’t rust over time. However, you need to pay attention to the tines wire (the one that holds them together) and make sure you oil and store it in proper conditions, to avoid rust.
You may have heard about the term “garden rake” before, but you should know that garden rakes and leaf rakes are two completely different items. Garden rakes are a lot heavier compared to leaf rakes and they are mostly used for working on the soil. Since soil is heavier, garden rakes need to be stronger and they are often made from steel. The times found at the end of a garden rake are also stronger and lack the springiness of the times found on leaf rakes.
Leaf rakes have two major roles. First and foremost, they are used for raking leaves, but they are also helpful when you want to rake out dead grass. This is a common practice after the winter season when the grass returns to that beautiful green. This is when you’re able to see the dead patches of grass that need to be removed from the scenery. When trying to remove dead grass, it’s important to use a sweeping motion, just as you do when using a broom. These gentle movements won’t detach the lawn, but rather make sure that the area with the dead grass is exposed so that it can get the air nutrients it needs to grow, as well as facilitate access to water.
if bamboo or plastic rakes are more protected from rocks, they aren’t as solid as steel rakes. Basically, you are compromising durability to get a lighter and cheaper product. Metal rakes are suitable for people who have large yards or gardens and want to be able to move a larger pile at once. They are also better when raking wet leaves, as these are heavier and require a sturdier rake to maneuver them. You can search for metal rakes that have adjustable tines, but be prepared to pull more money out of your pocket to buy one.
If you do opt for a metal rake, make sure you have the proper place to store it. They should be sheltered from whatever water source, preferably in a dry spot in the garage or the garden/tool shed. If you can hang them on a wall, that would be even better. You can also coat them with oil every now and then, to make sure they don’t rust.
When looking to buy a leaf rake, you need to consider your height. An adult rake won’t be as easy to use by a child. Also, if you are a tall person and buy a rake with a short handle, you will find yourself bending forwards enough time to end up with back pains. If your family has members of different heights that take turns in raking the yard, you can opt for a rake that has an adjustable handle.
Leak Raking Hacks
As always, we try to find a new and ingenious way that helps us get around doing chores a lot faster. Heck, we’ve even invented automatic machines that do our dishes for us and vacuum cleaners that move around the house and pick up the mess for us (to the major delight of cats who use them as chairs). In the past years, people have been looking for all sorts of ways to hack into this leaf raking system and make it easier and faster. We have gathered the most innovative and ingenious ways that make leaf hacking a little less boring than it already is:
- One of the most horrifying parts of leaf raking in the toll it takes on your body. Bending over too many times causes strain on your arms and shoulders, not to mention that there are high odds of your waking up with back pain the next morning. One way to prevent this from happening is to start using a tarp. With it, you can eliminate the step that requires dragging leaves to a specific spot for bagging. If you just lay down a piece of plastic or a canvas tarp, you can simply bring the leaves onto its surface and then later fold it up and take it to wherever you dump the leaves. If you want to make this process even easier, you can use a tarp that has rope handles.
- Mulching is one of the greatest leaf hacks that ever came across man’s mind. Mulching is the process that grinds leaves into organic matter which is later used as yard fertilizer or compost material. After having mulched the leaves, you can either leave them where they’re standing or vacuum them.
- A common mistake that people make and which turn leaf raking into a complete nuisance is to rake after a rainstorm. Leaves that are wet are also heavier and they are sticky and hard to remove from the lawn. Try to start raking hours after a rainfall, to make sure that the leaves have dried out a little bit.
- Over the years, the man had proven that he can take a tool that’s used for a particular task and increase its versatility by using it in unexpected ways. That’s how people thought about using a snow shovel to aid in the raking process. Snow shovels have greatly increased sizes compared to normal shovels, which means they can hold a pretty generous number of leaves. Simply rake the leaves on the surface of the shovel, just like to sweep dirt with the broom onto the dustpan. It’s a quick and easy way to move a lot of leaves into the bag at once.
- Another cool trick is to use the wind to aid you in the leaf raking process. As odd as this may sound, it will be a lot easier for you to rake the leaves in the same direction as the wind is blowing. Since raking is mostly a fall activity, there’s surely some wind around to give you a helping hand. If you don’t believe us, just time yourself and see how long it takes to rake with and without wind. Also, if you live uphill, raking the leaves downhill is way easier.
- It’s always a good idea to have a pair of gloves on while raking. There are so many things that you could avoid simply by wearing a pair of gloves… First of all, if you have a rake with a metal handle, your hands will definitely start to feel cold because the metal in the fall can’t possibly be warm. This leads to discomfort up to a point where you just want to throw away the rake and quit. Even if you’re rake doesn’t have a metal handle, the low outside temperature will leave your hands cold, so a pair of gloves is still a good idea. Second of all, if you have a large yard surface that needs raking, there are high chances of ending up with blisters on the palms of your hand. Once again, gloves 1, no gloves, 0. Using gloves is not only a matter of comfort, but it’s also a matter of hygiene. If there’s ever a moment when you have to lean forward and pick up something unsanitary with your hands, you’ll wish you had gloves! And besides, nobody likes having dirt under their fingernails at the end of the day.
- Gloves aren’t the only useful leaf raking accessory. You should also be wearing some closed toe shoes. It often happens that we end up hurting ourselves in silly ways, like by dragging the rake over our feet. Not to mention that insects crawling in your yard could end up biting you without you ever getting the chance to see them because they’re hidden under the carpet of leaves. All of these problems can go away with the right pair of footwear. If you have a pair of work boots lying around, don’t be afraid to use them.
- It would also be a good idea to wear long pants and sleeves. Not only do they help you stay warm, but they’ll also keep you protected from pesky insect bites that we spoke of earlier.
- We cannot stress how important it is to take regular breaks when you’re raking leaves. If you have a really large yard and a lot of leaves to rake, this process can take up a full day, which means you can’t exactly keep on raking every single minute. Every 20 to 30 minutes, try to take a 10-minute break. Drink lots of water and maybe do some stretches, to make sure you won’t end up with sore muscles the next day.
- Buy a rake with cushion grips. They’re great because they help you get a better grip on the tool and this is especially useful if your palms tend to sweat a lot or if you find yourself in a small drizzle while you’re raking. If the rake’s handle is made from metal, it’s also a lot slippery compared to rakes with wooden handles, for instance. Having a good grip is always ideal.
What Happens to the Leaves?
It all depends on whether you actually decide to rake them or not. As we’ve previously mentioned, there are more and more people that would much rather mulch the leaves and leave them lying on the ground, so that the organic nutrients inside them can be absorbed by the soil and you can have a greener and healthier grass next year.
But if you’re not really confident about this, you can always pick up your rake and start sweeping the lawn. Questions are, what do you do with the leaves after raking them? Here is a list of possible ideas:
- You can pick up some of the leaves, mulch them and they use them in your planter beds. They could use all the nutrients they can get. Think of it as organic compost.
- There is always the possibility to decorate your lawn with piles of leaves. That’s unless heavy wind in your area will “blow up: your plans. Create even piles of leaves and leave them in symmetrical spots in your yard. You can also place them in baskets and leave a pumpkin or two lying around, just for show.
- Leaves can be really cool when used in crafting. You can make beautiful autumn wraith or give them to your kids because they will surely find a neat way to use them. Think of all the beautiful Thanksgiving cards that you could handcraft and decorate with leaves raked from your own yard!
If you are the least bit skeptical about into raking leaves, but instead munching them and using them as a soil nutrient, why not give it a shot with a small portion of your yard. You really don’t have anything to lose and you can just examine that patch of soil where you left the mulched leaves and see if there is any improvement. It could save you a lot of time in the future.
Should you decide to stick to the old-fashioned methods of raking, to try to integrate some of the tips in this article in the process. Raking is, by far, one of the most tedious home chores ever known to man. You’re sitting outside in the cold (for the sake of it, let’s assume that falls are cold where you live) for hours and putting your body to the test, while making the exact same movements over and over and over again, when you could be in the house, sipping on some tea and watching TV. By using some of our ideas, you can speed up the process and make it so that your body won’t feel too much strain at the end of the day.