Leaf-Raking Tips to Help Ease Your Fall Cleanup Efforts
Use these helpful tips to turn the often time-consuming and labor-intensive chore of raking leaves into one that is quick and painless.
1. Make Sure Raking Is Really Necessary.
As you probably know, leaves contain nutrients that are beneficial to your soil. By allowing the leaves to break down into your lawn or garden, these nutrients can be recycled into the dirt. The problem comes when leaves are piled too deeply and end up smothering your grass and garden plants. So how deep is too deep? Here are guidelines developed by university researchers: If less than half of your lawn is covered in leaves, raking is not necessary but shredding the leaves with your lawnmower is recommended. If more than half of your lawn is covered in leaves, it’s time to grab your rake.
2. Use Your Lawn Mower.
As previously mentioned, the best solution for lawns with leaf coverage of 50% or less is to use a lawnmower and shred the leaves so that the nutrients break down into the lawn. This option isn’t difficult — it’s just a matter of running your mower over the leaves a couple times to ensure a fine chop. The small fragments of leaves will then fall down between grass blades and decompose into the soil over time.
Alternatively, if your mower happens to have a bag attachment, you can use it to collect the leaves. Then you have the choice of using the leaves as mulch around plants that need cold weather protection, adding the leaves to your compost pile, or disposing of them as yard waste.
3. Wait Until All the Leaves Have Fallen.
We’ve all tried at least once to keep up with the leaves as they fall off the trees. It gets exhausting! Save yourself the hassle by waiting until the majority of leaves are off the trees and on the ground. Then divide your lawn into segments and tackle one section at a time.
4. Choose the Right Tools.
When picking out a leaf rake, try to find one that is comfortable in your hand and easy to use. For example, the handle should be long enough that you are able to stand upright while raking with it. Sturdy steel tines make a better choice than plastic tines. Also, some rakes boast “no clog” designs that eliminate the need for removing leaves stuck in the tines all the time. Be sure to wear gloves while raking to protect your hands from developing blisters.
5. Stretch Your Muscles Beforehand.
Because raking seems so simple, many homeowners underestimate how physically stressful it can be, even for fit people. Stretching for 10 minutes to warm up your muscles is a good idea before taking on a somewhat strenuous job like raking. Stretch your neck, arms and shoulders; take a quick walk; and do a few deep knee-bends. By stretching beforehand, you can help keep aches and pains to a minimum.
6. Pace Yourself.
While it’s true that raking is a good way to get some exercise, it’s important that you not overdo it. Rather than taking large, sweeping strokes that will tire you out in a hurry, use small movements and keep your back straight. Alternate between the left and right sides of your body periodically to give your dominant arm a breather. Lastly, take breaks — get a drink, catch your breath, enjoy the crisp autumn day.
7. Take Advantage of the Wind.
Trying to gather leaves when it’s windy can be frustrating. While it’s obviously best to rake leaves on a calm day, that’s not always an option. If you find yourself trying to deal with your leaf situation during blustery weather, consider working with the wind rather than against it. For example, if the wind is blowing leaves to the west, that’s the way you should be raking your leaves — harness the wind for your purpose. Also, use short strokes and make small piles of the leaves.