Raking Leaves

Helpful Tips on How to Rake Leaves

By Mark J. Donovan

Fall foliage in certain areas of the country, such as in New England, is absolutely spectacular. The colors are vibrant and varied including shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. The colors are even more enhanced with low angle sunshine. This all said, fall foliage also means raking leaves, and for many of us, lots of them. Raking leaves can be both enjoyable and painful, particularly for those who have lower back issues. Raking leaves is a chance to commune with nature, if you will. It is also a time to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air.

For those, however, who find raking leaves more of a chore or a back breaking task, there are a few tips you can employ to make the job go a little faster and that will also minimize the pain.

First, you can always buy a large leaf blower, the type that you wheel around. These types of leaf blowers can tackle even the heaviest layer of leaves. With a large leaf blower you can create wind rows of leaves, so that you can quickly rake them into large piles or into plastic bags.

After raking the leaves into large piles, I find it best to use a large vinyl tarp to rake the leaves into. Using a wheel barrow is simply too small and using a large barrel is just too heavy to lift when it is full of leaves. By using a large vinyl tarp you can simply pull up the four corners and drag the tarp to your designated leaf pile, or compost pile.

When using a tarp, I find it best to lay the tarp out fully just in front of the leaf pile. I then take a wide stance on the tarp edge so that I keep it stretched and flat to the ground.

I then use the rake to pull the leaves onto the tarp. Once I get the bulk of the leaf pile onto the tarp, I can then step off of it, and rake up the remains of the leaf pile onto the tarp. After raking all of the leaves onto the tarp, I then pick up two opposite corners, followed by the remaining two. This approach seems to work best for preventing any leaves from falling out of the tarp.

Raking leaves in yard. A sea of leaves to rake up.


When it comes to actually picking the day for raking leaves, select a day where there is little wind and no rain. In addition, it is best that the weather a couple of days prior to your leaf raking day have also been free of rain. This way the leaves will be lighter and easier to rake into piles. Nothing is more frustrating than raking leaves on a windy day or raking leaves that are saturated with water.

When it comes to the physical mechanics of raking leaves, make sure you use your entire body and not just your arms and back. Move your feet in the direction you are raking the leaves. Using your entire body’s momentum will help to ease the stress on your back and arms. Also switch the rake from side to side occasionally and take some periodic breaks. Also, pace yourself. There is no first place in this yard project. Finally, don’t make large piles. It takes a lot of effort to rake leaves into fewer large piles. By creating smaller piles you can more easily sweep them up and carry/drag them away with the tarp.

As an alternative to raking leaves, you can use a mulching mower on them. A mulching mower does not have a vent, and as a result the leaves get cut to a thousand bits before dissolving into the grass. However, if you want to use a mulching mower to eliminate your leaves, it is best to use the mower regularly so that there is not an over abundance of leaves to mulch up.

If there is an over abundance of leaves in a particular area, you may want to first use a rake to spread them out over the lawn before using the mulching mower.

With these simple raking tips you should now be able to hopefully enjoy your fall days a little more while raking leaves in your yard.

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