Rake, Blow, or No?

Sunday, September 15, 2002

They call it ‘fall’ for a good reason: autumn leaves dropping everywhere, including the lawn. Weekly raking can be a chore, but many advocate it as healthier for the grass below. Others scoff, saying wait awhile, rake alot at once and be done with it.

What’s best for turfgrass? Like most garden practices, leaf raking is best done in moderation. If half the lawn is covered, or if a good part of it is deep with leaves, rake to prevent excessively damp and shady conditions in the lawn. But make it easy on yourself, too. You’ll certainly be composting those leaves for use later as mulch and fertilizer. When the leaves pile up, rake and compost them in large bunches, about 60 gallons at a time. That’s the same as two large plastic leaf bags, and plenty to rake at once. Add the dying summer annuals you’re pulling out now, sprinkle on a dusting of cottonseed meal, and turn the pile once a month.

To rake or blow, that is often the question, and both have their place. Blowers make short work of dry leaves, and the newest models do make less noise. But damp leaves and tight spaces can render blowers useless; then’s the time to pick a rake. Bamboo, metal, or plastic, choose one with wide teeth to gather leaves quickly without scratching too deeply into your turfgrass. Buy rakes with long handles for easy reaching and padding for comfort. And if raking has been tough on your hands, look for ergonomic designs with curved handles.

If yours is a mulching mower, leaves are less of a problem since most are cut fine in the last few mowings of the season. However, don’t mow the lawn just to mulch the leaves. Once you’ve stopped mowing, start raking.

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