We’ve all seen the heart-warming ads where children and dogs jump into this massive pile of leaves and 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 forth (and what have you).
The truth of the matter is nobody likes raking leaves. Not unless it’s the only 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 is just tedious yard work.
Thankfully, people were ingenious enough to hack this whole leaf raking business and found creative ways and tips to make this chore less tedious and less time-consuming.
Why Should We Rake Leaves?
Whenever you’re faced with a home chore, you always end up wondering, “Do I have to do this?” The importance of raking leaves is best explained by what happens if we don’t.
Leaf Raking Protects Your Grass
First of all, your lawn needs to breathe. Imagine what would happen if you covered your flowers with a rug. The grass can quickly get smothered under the carpet of leaves if you don’t have them removed by snowfall. 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.
Leaf Piles Invite Guests
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.
A Different Approach to Leaf Raking
A couple of years ago, The Washington Post published an article with a very different leaf raking approach. After doing a little bit of research and talking to a couple of specialists, they concluded that leaf raking is an unnecessary task. It would be better if you looked at the matter from a different perspective.
Hack 1: Mowing vs. Leaf Raking
Having spoken to a turfgrass researcher from a university, going over your “fall garden carpet” with a lawnmower is 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 benefit the soil in the long run. Further, since you don’t need any fancy rakes to get rid of leaves, you can 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 too many organic materials transferred from the leaves to the ground changes the soil’s chemistry and causes it to be less fertile. Myth busted!
But here is where things get interesting. Studies have shown another hidden benefit of getting rid of leaves by running them over with a lawnmower: they can suppress weeds. Mulching leaves can reduce dandelions by 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 ratio needs to be about 50-50. In other words: if you stare at the ground and see more leaves than 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.
Leaf Raking The Traditional Way
If you’re not entirely convinced about the efficiency of the methods mentioned above, let’s talk about the traditional way of raking leaves, as shown in this video. So, let’s go over the best practices that are used to rake leaves.
Leaf Raking Tools
First of all, make sure you invest in a quality rake. The rake should be lightweight to make it easy for 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 broad 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.
Leaf Raking vs. Your Body
When grabbing the handle of your rake, make sure you do so with both hands and also switch hand positions 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.
You should look for ways to avoid going to the trash can or whatever spot you drop your leaves on after more than necessary for easier raking. 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 generous space recipient so that you won’t have to travel too much to the dumping spot after picking up a rake-full of leaves.
More leaves fit into the bag/cardboard box/any other leaf recipient, stomp on 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 at the end.
When to Rake Leaves
If you’ve never dealt with raking leaves, then you need to know 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, some hints 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 four days. But this also depends on how wet the leaves are and how thick or thin the leaves’ layer is. Wet leaves weigh more, which means that the grass under them is smothering when too many leaves start to pile up.
It’s also important to consider the size of your yard and plan accordingly. Having an oversized yard means you need to allocate a more extensive time slot to perform this chore. If you have many trees, that also means more work, so you’ll have to start early. Another critical factor is the equipment you’re using. People who own a leaf-blower will have a much easier job than people who use a regular leaf rake.
Choosing a Leaf Rake
While there are many 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. These times are springy because 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 than 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 tines found at the end of a garden rake are also stronger and lack the springiness of the tines found on leaf rakes.
Leaf rakes have two significant 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.
Leaf Raking Techniques
When trying to remove dead grass, it’s essential 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 and facilitate access to water.
If bamboo or plastic rakes are more protected from rocks, they aren’t as reliable as steel rakes. You are compromising the durability to get a lighter and cheaper product. Metal rakes are suitable for people who have large yards or gardens and want 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 with adjustable tines, but be prepared to pull more money out of your pocket to buy one.
Leaf Rake Maintenance
If you 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 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. 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 with an adjustable handle.
Leaf Raking Hacks
As always, we try to find a new and ingenious way to 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.
Leaf Raking Hack 2: Back-Saver
One of the most horrifying parts of leaf raking is 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 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 more comfortable, you can use a tarp with rope handles.
Leaf Raking Hack 3: Make Mulch
Mulching is one of the most incredible leaf hacks that ever came across man’s mind. Mulching is the process that grinds leaves into organic matter, which is used as yard fertilizer or compost material. After having mulched the leaves, you can either leave them where they’re standing or vacuum them.
Leaf Raking Hack 4: Dry Off
A common mistake that people make and turn leaf raking into a complete nuisance is raking after a rainstorm. Wet leaves 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 slightly.
Leaf Raking Hack 5: Multitool
Snow shovels have significantly increased sizes than ordinary 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.
Leaf Raking Hack 6: Harness Nature
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 blows. 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.
Leaf Raking Hack 7: Be Handy
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 start to feel cold because the fall’s metal 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 your 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.
Leaf Raking Hack 8: Watch Your Feet
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.
Leaf Raking Hack 9: Gear Up
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.
Leaf Raking Hack 10: Be Realistic
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.
Leaf Raking Hack 11: Invest in Comfort
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.
Leaf Raking Hack 12: Measure Twice
Speaking of rake handles, make sure to work with a rake that is the proper size for you. Rake handles that are too large or too small may cause unnecessary back pain and minor injury.
Leaf Raking Hack 13: Blow It Off
Even though it is enjoyable to rake your yard by hand, especially surrounded by the colorful fall foliage, a good leaf blower makes leaf raking much more quick and simple. Just point the blower at the leaves, send them all in one general direction, effectively creating a huge pile. Then you can take your rake and finish by tidying things up.
Leaf Raking Hack 14: DIY Retool
Since we are on the topic of alternative raking methods, believe it or not, an old lawnmower is one of the most helpful pieces of equipment you can get your hands on for leaf removal. For example, you can turn your mower into a lawn & leaf vacuum.
Leaf Raking Hack 15: Suck It Up
Depending on the model of vacuum and a few design tweaks, you can also repurpose an old vacuum with a serrated blade to pick up and shred leaves all at once to be done with the dreaded chore as fast and effortlessly as possible.
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. The real question is, 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 then 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 a beautiful autumn wreath 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 same movements over and over and over again, when you could be in the house, sipping on some tea and watching TV.
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. Good luck with your leafy lawn!