Correction to This Article

Skip the Leaf Blower And Pick Up a Rake

By Alan J. Heavens
Philadelphia Inquirer
Saturday, November 15, 2008

Instead of buying a noisy leaf blower, get some exercise and fresh air the retro way -- with a rake.

· Why rake at all? Leaves cover the grass, blocking the sunlight it needs to grow. If a pile of wet leaves sits for a few days on a lawn, you'll find the grass underneath it discolored or, worse yet, bare ground. If you're going to leave the leaves on the lawn, chop them up first.

· There are three basic types of rakes: lawn, leaf and soil or landscaping rakes.

Lawn rakes are made for light-duty work, such as removing clippings after mowing without tearing up the grass or disturbing the soil. Leaf rakes are much more heavy-duty, designed to shift weighty piles of often water-logged leaves.

Among landscaping rakes, metal-bow rakes are used for moving soil around the garden, mounding dirt to create raised beds, picking up garden debris and tamping the soil. The sharp steel points can dig too deeply into a lawn, however, and when used to rake leaves, those same points spear the leaves and get clogged easily.

· Leaf rakes with metal tines (also known as spring rakes because they bounce) last the longest because the teeth don't bend when the leaves are heavy. Bamboo rakes are lightweight, but the teeth tend to break easily. Plastic rakes are durable.

The best rakes for tight spaces are the little bamboo ones made for children. They are rarely wider than seven or eight inches and have short handles that let you get to leaves under shrubs.

· Don't buy a rake that's too narrow or too wide. An 18-inch-wide leaf rake may make the job longer, because the narrower width reduces the amount being raked. A 30-inch-wide rake makes the job go more quickly, but it also puts more of a strain on your back. A good middle ground is a rake with a 24-inch width.

· What will it cost? Between $12 and $50. The most durable and most ergonomically designed rakes usually cost about $30. Ergonomic rakes with bent handles are easier on the back. Foam-cushioned handles prevent blisters, as well as wrist and hand injuries.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company