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Autumn leaves are falling, which means pumpkin donuts and lattes are available at your favorite morning pit stop. If you own a home, it probably also means that your weekends now include that annual rite of yard-work passage: raking.
I lived in New York City for the past 20 years, so it's been a long time since I picked up a rake. Standing in the garden-tool section of our local big-box hardware store to select one, I was overwhelmed. There are a lot of different types of rakes — a lot. I surely don't need, nor can I buy, all of them. So which should I choose? A quick search through my favorite gardening resources provided answers.
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The leaf rake
When it comes to raking leaves, the leaf rake, also called a lawn rake, is what you need. Sold in varying widths of up to 30 inches, it has a long handle with tines that fan out in a triangle. The tines are generally made of metal, plastic or bamboo. Metal is the most resilient, but perhaps not quite as effective as plastic tines when moving large quantities of leaves, especially if they're wet. Bamboo tines are the most fragile but are much gentler on plants, if you are raking over groundcovers or flower beds.
The shrub rake
A shrub rake is built much like a leaf rake. It has a smaller fan of tines, though, to allow it better access between shrubbery, around fencing and in other tight areas of your landscape.
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The bow rake
A bow rake, also called a level-head or garden rake, is generally used for heavier materials than leaves. It's great for leveling dirt, mulch, gravel or sand. The tines are made of metal and are shorter and thicker than those of a leaf rake, and spaced more widely. This rake is a workhorse, and something you definitely want in your garage, but you wouldn't want to rake leaves with it — it’s far too heavy and unwieldy for the job.
The hand rake
A hand rake is a smaller version of a shrub rake or bow rake. It has a short handle and is more the size of a trowel. This is what you want to use in and around flowers and smaller plantings.
The short handle gives you greater control in those spaces, but be prepared to get down on your knees with it.
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The thatch rake
A thatch rake is not for raking leaves at all. It's for removing the thatch — a layer of organic material between the green matter and soil surface— from your lawn. It has razor-sharp blades for teeth on both sides of the head. One side breaks the thatch up; the other removes it.
Armed with the right rake, I'm ready. Of course, my tiny, newly planted trees may not produce enough leaves to require raking this year. Nevertheless, I'm prepared. And a city girl can dream, can't she?