How to Rake Leaves (10 Practical Tips)

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Last updated: November 10, 2021

Raking leaves, some people hate it, others love it. I personally don’t mind it all, but only because I enjoy being outdoors and looking after my lawn.

As simple as it may sound, there is actually more to raking leaves than you might think. Choosing the correct rake type, using the right technique, raking at the right time, there is a lot to consider.

Read on, as I am going to share my top 10 tips to make raking leaves so much easier and more effective. Further below, I will also explain why you may not even have to rake leaves at all.

10 Tips for Raking Leaves

Here we go, ten tips to make raking leaves easier, and perhaps even a fun chore to do.

1. Choose the Best Rake

Did you know there are literally dozens of different rake types? They all have different purposes and are made with different materials.

For the purpose of raking leaves in your lawn, you will need the most common type of rake, which is the classic leaf rake or otherwise a lawn rake.

Leaf rake
Leaf rake

A traditional leaf rake typically has plastic tines, whereas a lawn rake has metal tines. They are priced differently, but for larger areas with heavy leaf build up, a lawn rake with metal tines may be the best option.

Also consider the length of the handle, as it needs to be long enough to prevent you from bending over too much.

2. Time It Right

If you enjoy raking as much as I do (yes, I really do), by all means go out there and rake leaves whenever you think there are too many of them.

But if you want to save your precious time, it might be wise to time it right, and that time is towards the end of fall/autumn when the trees have actually finished dropping their leaves.

This will save you time as you will only have to do this chore once and be done with it for the year.

3. Wear Appropriate Clothing

It’s easy to underestimate the effort involved in raking leaves. The bigger your lawn and the more leaf build up, the more physically challenging this chore can become.

While a good quality rake is crucial to get the job done, wearing appropriate clothing and shoes is just as important.

  • Gloves:
    Wearing heavy duty gardening gloves will help prevent blisters and will give you more grip on the rake handle.
  • Closed toed shoes:
    Wearing closed toe shoes will protect your feet against insects, bites, and the tines of your very own rake.
  • Long sleeves and pants:
    Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants will help protect against dust and perhaps also against insects and bites.
  • Mask:
    Wearing a mask will help against dust inhaling, especially useful if you have allergies.

Not all of these items will be absolutely necessary in all cases, but it’s something to consider before raking leaves.

4. Use the Wind to Your Advantage

It’s always best to go raking leaves when there is little to no wind. But if you do happen to find yourself raking leaves when there is a bit of wind, make sure to use that wind to your advantage.

I’ve made this mistake many times myself, but if you find there is some wind consistently going into the same direction, you should rake with the wind instead of against it.

5. Rake in Sections

If you have a larger lawn to rake, it’s a good idea to approach raking leaves with a somewhat strategic mindset.

It’s all too easy to just start raking and work your way through all the leaves, but what you’ll find is that if you focus on smaller sections or rows, the job becomes so much easier.

This approach is easier than raking all the leaves to the center of your lawn. Not only that, you will also be reducing the risk of collected leaves blowing away by the wind.

6. Use Small Reaching Movements

Everyone is different of course, but I personally prefer to use smaller, or shorter, raking movements, as opposed to long and overreaching body and arm movements.

Raking leaves
Raking leaves

It’s much easier on the body to maintain smaller and more frequent movements than it is to maintain those longer movements, as it involves less bending and less strain on the arms.

7. Rake Before Rain

This is a classic mistake people make, and that is to not check the weather forecast when the chore of raking leaves is high up on the to-do list.

If rain is forecasted, let’s say tomorrow or the day after, go and do that raking leaves today! Wet and soggy leaves are so much harder to clean up, and it might also take some time for leaves to dry up after rain.

Before raking leaves, always make sure the leaves are actually dry. Even if it hasn’t rained for a few days or even a week, leaves can still hold a lot of moist and feel wet.

8. Bag Leaves Quickly

Rather than creating one big pile of leaves and bag them at the very end of the raking process, it might be better to bag smaller piles.

This way, the chore of raking leaves becomes much more manageable. But not only that, you will also be reducing the risk of that pile of leaves blowing away while you’re still raking.

9. Use a Tarp

Instead of using bags to collect leaves, you can also use a tarp. A tarp, or tarpaulin, is essentially a large sheet that you can use to rake the leaves onto.

Once you have enough leaves collected, it’s simply a matter of tying the four ends together to create a bag which you can then use to dispose of the leaves.

This approach is often more efficient because you will be able to collect more leaves at once, and there is less bending and scooping involved.

10. Use a Leaf Blower

A leaf blower can be an absolute blessing when it comes to cleaning up leaves in your lawn or backyard.

There are many different types of leaf blowers, but my personal favorite is the battery powered handheld leaf blower.

Handheld leaf blower
Handheld leaf blower

That’s the type of leaf blower that is the most environment friendly, is easy to use, has more than enough power for reasonably sized yards, and typically doesn’t have to cost much at all.

A rake and leaf blower can also be used together. First, use the leaf blower to blow leaves into one direction, and then use the rake to do the finishing touch.

Should You Even Rake Leaves?

Yes and no.

We all want our lawn, backyard or garden to be looking neat and tidy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that mindset. But did you know that there are also drawbacks to raking leaves?

You see, we tend to see leaves as waste, but in reality they aren’t. Leaves serve a purpose in nature’s ecosystem.

Here are some of the drawbacks of raking and cleaning up leaves:

  • Leaves are a natural fertilizer:
    In a way, fallen leaves form part of the circle of life. As leaves slowly break down, they offer essential nutrients that plants can use to grow and flourish. Fallen leaves also help suppress the growth of weeds. By raking and removing leaves, you’re taking away those natural nutrients.
  • Leaves are a habitat for wildlife:
    Leaves are the perfect habitat for lots of insects and small animals. Now, we might think that we don’t want that sort of wildlife in our lawn, but there are also benefits in having those insects and tiny animals there. For example, they are an excellent way to attract birds to birdhouses in your backyard as they are an important food source.
  • Leaves don’t belong on landfills:
    Even though fallen leaves are natural organic material, when they are bagged and sent to landfill, they can form methane when they break down, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Sadly, in the year 2018, more than 12% of municipal solid waste (MSW) consisted of yard trimmings (including leaves).

As such, if the build up of leaves in your lawn usually isn’t that significant, it might be better to simply not rake and let nature do its thing.

What you can also do, if there are a few leaves on the surface of your lawn, is mowing those leaves into your lawn. This will give your lawn more essential nutrients and will only benefit your lawn in the long term.

What to Do With Collected Leaves?

As mentioned, sometimes it might be better to just not bother raking leaves and instead let nature do its job.

However, if you do rake and collect leaves, try not to send them to landfill. Instead, do one of the following:

  • Compost:
    One of the best things you can do with collected leaves is creating a compost bin which can then be used as a fertilizer for your garden and yard. You might also be able to bring those leaves to a collection point, as some municipalities have compost programs.
  • Mulch:
    Turn leaves into mulch and use that to landscape your backyard or cover flower beds. You can create leaf mulch by simply chopping up leaves with a mower.
 

Guide to raking leaves

 
Thomas Dunnett

The backyard is the perfect place to bond with family and friends, to have a good time, or to simply relax with some fresh air and a bit of sunshine. With this website I am hoping to share my passion for the backyard with you.

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