It's all about the tines and your turf
Matching the rake tines to the quality and consistency of the turf is key. Plastic tines are softer and inclined to float over heavy debris (such as wet leaves), rough turf and grass taller than six centimetres. They are more suited to short grass, as well as cement sidewalks, concrete cobblestones, brick and asphalt. Metal tines are stiffer and more resilient, able to dig deep between blades of long grass and lift debris.
For clearing detritus from under hedges and woody shrubs, and across soil surfaces, a narrow fan (or a standard size that can be adjusted to a smaller width) is best. It also works well between deciduous plants in borders, and collecting fallen leaves and petals without damaging tender stalks. After testing narrow-headed rakes, I wouldn’t be without one.
Hone your raking technique
The glory of gardening is most often in the technique. I get the best results by grasping the rake pole near the top and standing ahead of the rake, in the direction I’m working toward. In this position, I can pull forward, effectively combining my energy with the natural spring of the tines. A low grip on the pole puts you too close to the rake head and slightly behind the direction in which you’re raking, resulting in shorter sweeping movements that are more push than pull, which takes extra muscle—making me cranky and quick to quit the job.
Stephen and I came to these conclusions:
- Select a rake with a pole handle length in scale with your height (the top of the pole should reach the bridge of your nose).
- Own several plastic and metal rakes to suit the task (removing thatch or moving leaves) and the surfaces you work on (lawn, soil or driveway).
- Learn good raking techniques (how to grasp the handle, pull leaves forward) for efficient and stress-free raking.