Just days ago you were all looking out of your windows at the flame red and orange trees thinking how gorgeous Thanksgiving would be this year and aren’t you fortunate that you’re hosting it at your house this year! Then you woke up this morning and looked outside. Where is the Clemson orange? The luscious red? The festive yellow illuminating every branch!? And then you saw it. In leafy heaps showered over your lawn. It has happened. The view is barren and–oh no–the yard work ahead is daunting.
You might fall into the category of those who got an early start on raking, only to wake up the next morning with a fresh covering of leaves on your hard labor. Raking is an annual chore that falls devilishly close to Thanksgiving. It can be grueling, especially as we age. Knowing when and how to rake, though, can save hours of work. What’s more, having the proper tools can aid in the work.
When to Rake
If your grass is growing, keep on mowing. Mowing will effectively mulch the first falling leaves of fall into your lawn, providing nutrients for growth. Once the grass has stopped growing, though, it’s raking time.
Leaves that have fallen under trees and shrubs can be left alone–they will compost by themselves, breaking down into a mulch and benefiting the trees and shrubs. Open areas, however, need to be raked. A thick carpet of leaves can kill a lawn by blocking the sunlight needed for spring growth as well as taking far too long t break down. The areas where the leaves are blown and gather into deep piles (along the foundation of your home, for example) need some raking.
The Proper Rake
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the standard (old-fashioned) rakes get clogged, causing frequent stops. Newer rakes are available with variations in the design so as not to clog as often. Noticed hand fatigue? Try a thicker handle. Comfort grips prevent hand-slippage and help reduce blisters. If you have back trouble, ergonomically designed rakes are good options for you (check online from Home Depot or Lowe’s).
How Often to Rake
You don’t need to rake with every fresh sprinkle of leaves, but if you wait too long, your work will be difficult and time consuming (an ergonomically designed rake will help with back pain, but if you’re spending hours out there it might be unavoidable). Spread out the raking during the season. You should end up raking your lawn somewhere between 3 and 5 times, depending on the size of the lawn.
Disposing of Leaves
Composting leaves is a great way to dispose of them naturally. They can be spread on top of a vegetable or flower garden plot and mixed with other composting ingredients to give the garden a lift. You can also start a compost pile in a remote area of your yard, but if composting is not an option, bag the leaves in yard waste disposal bags, use a wheel barrow to haul them to the curb or burn them in a safe area (bon fire, yes please). Of course, all of these options depend on the rules in the area where you live for disposing of leaves.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2004 more than 12,000 Americans were seen for injuries related to raking leaves. Avoid injuries by wearing gloves to protect your hands and skid-resistant shoes to prevent falls. Always bend and lift with your knees, not your back. Avoid repetitious movements that can cause fatigue and strain. Try not to twist as your rake (varying your movements can prevent these types of problems). Start and finish your raking sessions with some muscle stretches and warming up (you laugh, but it works like a charm). When you’re finished, give yourself a cool down period to help your muscles relax.