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How To Save Time, and Your Back, While Raking Leaves

September 20, 2013

By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, John Bateman

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Ah... autumn. The season of cooler temperatures, shorter daylight, and Sunday football. It`s also when trees put on their most vibrant displays. Of course, that beautiful foliage now will turn into a hassle for homeowners later when the leaves start to drop - it`s called fall for a reason, right?

The annual tradition of raking leaves doesn`t have to be a major pain in the neck, or anywhere else for that matter, if you follow a few of these tips.

Choose the right equipment

For those of you who prefer the least labor-intensive method of leaf removal (isn`t that most of us?), you can skip the rake altogether and consider leaf blowers and lawn sweepers.

As the name implies, the leaf blower doesn`t actually remove the leaves as much as blows them somewhere else. It`s certainly quicker and easier than traditional raking, but some people don`t like the noise or the environmental impacts of a gas-powered blower. Also, your neighbors may not like your leaves blown into the road or their yard.

An alternative to this is the lawn sweeper, which is better for the environment, while also removing the leaves. Sweepers resemble large lawn mowers that scoop up leaves and dump them into a hopper automatically; then you empty the hopper into a bag or garbage can. The downside is that they can cost several hundred dollars, and some require quite a bit of space to store when not in use.

If you opt for the traditional rake, there are a few things you`ll want to consider:

  • Use a wide-headed rake with a long handle - Rakes with a wider span gather more leaves with each sweep. Look for a 25-30 inch-wide head, made of durable plastic or metal. Handles should be long enough for you to sweep across the lawn while standing nearly erect (usually 48 inches long, at least).

  • Consider a pivoting-head rake - These rakes have a head that can pivot up to 270 degrees, allowing for better leverage when raking, and less strain on your back. One drawback is that these rakes can be a little more expensive.
  • Try a leaf-scooping rake - With this, you can rake leaves into a pile and then open up the double-headed scoop to grab the leaves and dump them into a receptacle. This rake acts like a giant set of salad tongs for you lawn, saving you time and energy from all the bending over.
  • Rake smartly

    As tempting as it is to grab your rake and tackle the leaves as soon as they start falling, you would be better to wait until a good amount fall down first. After that, plan for a day when the leaves aren`t wet from recent rain. Both of these will allow you to rake less often and less strenuously.

    Also try raking smaller amounts of leaves with smaller motions. This may sound counterintuitive, but the most effective raking is a medium-paced, quick sweeping motion that doesn`t get slowed down by either too much leaf-bulk, or long, dragging sweeps.

    Also don`t forget to pick a day where the weather cooperates. A mild fall day with light winds is perfect for this. Check your local hour-by-hour forecast on WeatherBug, and determine which way the wind is blowing so you can try to rake with the wind. This keeps your piles from scattering everywhere.

    Rake with your body in mind

    As with any yard work, dress for the occasion! Dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. Wear long pants and gloves to help prevent bites from insects or from (gulp!) snakes or spiders hiding in the leaves. Gloves will also help protect you from any thorns or sharp sticks that may be in the lawn debris.

    An ergonomic rake that`s clog-free and has a curved handle can help you rake with better posture. If you don`t have one of these, just remember to avoid slouching over when raking. And don`t stretch too far away from your base (a.k.a, your feet) - move around when raking rather than standing in one place.

    Finally, for those of you whose back gives them fits when raking, remember not to weigh down your bags with too many leaves. Also, limit your time bending over and bend at the knees when you do have to pick up a pile.

    There are many things you can tailor to your own needs while keeping your lawn leaf-free. Your local hardware store, or a click of a mouse, can help find the perfect leaf-removing tool for you. One last thing - some communities don`t require you to bag your leaves for removal! The leaves only need to be raked into a pile along the side of the road for street pick-up. This will save you time and money, so check if it`s an option in your community.

    Be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter.

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    Story image: Courtesy of OSU Special Collections & Archives, and Wikimedia Commons.

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