10 Tips to Make Raking Easier
When the season leaves you no choice, follow this advice
Once the leaves start to fall, it seems they never stop. And even for autumn lovers, raking can get old fast. Some desperate souls have been known to try to suck them up with their vacuum cleaner (a decidedly bad idea for your vacuum).
There are easier and more effective ways to make raking easier and less time consuming, not to mention less back breaking. Try these tips.
1. Don’t mothball that lawn mower. Make sure you mow your lawn late into the season and keep the grass level low — no more than 2 to 3 inches. The longer your grass, the more effort it will take to rake through it to move the leaves. Some lawn tractors have attachments systems that suck up and bag grass clippings and the leaves with them.
2. Prepare your body. Exercise regularly in the lead-up to raking season, and warm up before you begin raking, says Scott Sailor, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Stretch your muscles, go for a walk and treat raking as exercise — because it is. “We often like to get it done quickly and often try to go too fast by gathering too many leaves at one time, which is essentially like putting more weights on a barbell,” Sailor says. “The more you grab, the more strain you put on your body.” Also stay warm and hydrated, dress in layers that can be easily added or removed and don’t overexert yourself.
3. Use the right technique. Pull the leaves directly toward you, without twisting as you pull. Tighten your abdominals to protect your back. If you bag the leaves, lift the leaves and bags using your legs, not your lower back.
4. Use good tools. First, get a comfortable, light rake with a long handle so you’re not straining to lift it or bending over while you rake. You can buy bag funnels to help keep the bag open while dumping leaves into it. If you have a wooded area where you’re allowed to dump leaves, gather the leaves on a strong tarp and drag the load there. Consider carefully whether you really want to purchase a leaf blower — they are anything but environmentally friendly and may be banned by ordinance in your town or city because of the noise. If you do use a leaf blower, aim it away from people.
5. Compost them. Want to avoid bagging and essentially recycle your leaves? Buy a compost bin or, if you have many leaves, set up compost piles in remote areas of the yard where nature can break the leaves and other compost materials into nutrient-rich material for your garden or lawn.
6. Mulch them. A mulcher or mulching lawn mower can break down those leaves or perhaps just allow you to leave them where they are, providing nutrients for a more lush lawn come spring. Mulchers also can help shred the leaves into smaller pieces so you can put more shredded leaves in a bag.
7. Rake before winter. Letting leaves become compacted beneath the snow all winter will make them harder to move come spring.
8. Take it one section at a time. Don’t rake everything in one day, especially if you have a large lawn. Divide the lawn into sections and rake one at a time — and hope the wind doesn’t work against you.
9. Wait until the end. Attacking the leaves as they fall may seem easier, but you’re most likely adding several hours to the job. Wait until most of the leaves are off the trees before tackling the project.
10. Get some help. Don’t want to spring for a lawn service? Consider hiring one or more neighborhood kids at an hourly rate to help you on a Saturday. “They can recover in no time at all,” Sailor quips. “It’ll take us a week.”
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