Guide To Raking Leaves

By Amy DeYoung

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and one of the best parts is the gorgeous fall leaves. Fall foliage is breathtaking. However, the aftermath can be messy and time-consuming to deal with as homeowners.

To help, we’re sharing our guide to raking leaves so you can save yourself time and frustration by raking them in the most efficient way possible.

When Should I Rake Leaves?

Naturally, you can rake leaves anytime they have fallen to the ground. However, choosing specific times of year and weather conditions to rake leaves in can save you from doing the same job twice.

If possible, wait until later in autumn, right before the first snow or frost of the winter season, to rake leaves. Waiting until this time of year may save you from needing to rake leaves multiple times in the same season. The leaves will usually be drier, making them less messy to rake.

Regardless of when you choose to rake your leaves, don’t leave them on your grass throughout the winter. If you want your fall lawn to remain healthy, you must remove most of the leaves to prevent snow mold diseases. Piles of leaves can also attract pests and smother new grass growth. While leaf cleanup is a large task, it’s crucial for the health of your grass, pest prevention, and your neighbors’ sake.

What Kind of Rake Should I Use?

Before you begin raking, examine the rake you own. A lawn rake is the right rake for this home improvement task. Most lawn rakes will have large fans and tines in a triangular shape. Typically, lawn rakes are made of metal, wood, or plastic. Steel rakes should never be used over grass because they can rip your grass, so reserve your steel rake for raking dirt or stones only.

If you have narrow areas between shrubs, consider purchasing a shrub rake or metal expanding rake. A shrub rake is a narrow version of a leak rake, allowing you to get into nooks and crannies without straining yourself. Alternatively, a metal expanding rake can serve as both a lawn rake and a shrub rake because it has loaded springs that allow it to expand or narrow depending on your needs.

You’ll also want to consider the rake handle. If you’re tall, look for a lawn rake with a long handle so you’re not hunched over. A cushioned handle can reduce stress on your hands from the repetitive motion of raking.

Safety Tips for Raking Leaves

While raking leaves may not seem like a dangerous task, there are many ways to injure yourself. In 2014, doctors treated over 42,000 patients for raking-related injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided with proper safety precautions and avoiding overdoing it.

Follow these safety tips for raking leaves to reduce your risk of injury:

  • Wear gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from insects and snakes that may be hiding amongst the leaves.
  • Take breaks as you work. Many of us aren’t used to physical labor for long bursts of time, so take breaks and use this time to stretch and relax your body.
  • Before beginning, stretch and warm up your muscles. After you finish raking, stretch again for five to ten minutes to loosen up any tightness in your back or shoulders.
  • Switch your hand, leg, and arm positions frequently to prevent blisters. Try trading sides and switching your hand’s placement on the rake to avoid straining yourself in one position while you rake.
  • Wear comfortable, slip-resistant shoes to avoid falling while raking wet leaves. Avoid open-toed shoes.
  • Rely on your legs, not your back, when you’re raking. Moving more frequently and walking with the rake is better and reduces strain on your back.
  • Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes, especially if you’re near low-hanging tree branches or using a leaf blower at any point.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. Even if it’s cool outside, you can still become dehydrated from the strenuous exercise.
  • Plan ahead for leaf disposal. Many people are injured each year by picking up overfilled garbage bags or cans of leaves. To avoid this, don’t overfill your garbage bags or ask a family member to help you lift and dispose of the leaves.

How to Rake Leaves Quickly

Before you start raking, make a game plan. Which area of the yard are you going to start raking first? Are you planning on working from one side to the other? If you have a huge lawn, divide it into sections and take breaks after you finish each section. You’ll also want to take a look at your gutters. If your gutters are full of leaves, clean them before raking your yard. Otherwise, you’ll have to redo the entire project once the gutters are cleaned.

A favorite time-saving hack among lawn care and landscaping experts is mowing over leaves on the ground to break them into tinier pieces, reducing the number of leaves flying away while you rake. This is also a great step if you’re creating compost or mulch out of old leaves.

Once you’ve gathered your supplies and used a lawn mower over the autumn leaves, take these steps to rake leaves quickly:

  • Use quick, small-reaching movements as you rake to avoid straining your hands, arms, and back with large, overreaching motions.
  • Make small leaf piles throughout your yard. A huge leaf pile can be overwhelming and challenging to control if the wind picks up.
  • When raking small areas, rake the leaves directly from the ground into your leaf pile, then rake the leaves into a garbage bag, using the rake like an ice cream scoop.
  • If you’re struggling to get leaves into the leaf bags, attach a funnel to the top of the garbage bag to make sweeping leaves into the bag easier.
  • Sweep in small, controlled motions to maximize how many leaves you pick up with each sweep.
  • Note the wind direction and begin raking downwind to avoid needing to pick up leaves that blow away.
  • Bag the leaves up as soon as you finish a section. The longer the leaves are sitting on your lawn, the more at risk you are of the wind picking up and destroying your hard-won leaf pile.
  • If you have a huge yard, place a tarp on the ground and rake the leaves onto the tarp. Then, drag the tarp to your garbage bin or funnel it into a bag for quicker disposal.

Final Thoughts

Raking is yard work that most homeowners don’t look forward to each autumn season. However, it can go quickly with the right approach and be a great workout. Be sure to wait until all the leaves fall from your trees before starting. Otherwise, you’ll need to rake your leaves more than once. Then, use these tips and safety precautions while raking leaves to make your fall home maintenance project go by quicker.

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