Metal or bamboo? And other questions to ask about rakes Essay

Whether you use them to move debris or soil or to remove thatch,rakes are a basic tool in the gardener’s arsenal. Garden centersand nurseries offer more choices than ever in rakes to help you withdifferent tasks. Here we display the various types and give someguidelines for choosing ones that will work best for you. Making a clean sweep. The broad rakes shown on this page areexcellent for clearing leaves, clippings, and other debris.

A newcomeris the rubber-tine model pictured above left. The soft, flexible tinesare effective for gently raking ground covers and other uneven surfaces.Sold as a “wizard” lawn rake, it’s available by mail for$22 (includes shipping) from Smith & Hawken, 25 Corte Madera, MillValley, Calif. 94941; free catalog. Durable plastic rakes (about $10) have the advantages of beinglightweight and springy, and they don’t make the unpleasant gratingsound typical of metal ones. They’re especially effective as lawnrakes.

Steel rakes (about $12) with flat tines are now available withsturdy spring construction, as pictured below. This produces anexceptionally flexible rake that readily picks up leaves and otherdebris, even from irregular surfaces such as ground covers and gravel. Though not as flexible, the broad-fan type of metal rake (about$10) is still popular with professional gardeners since its shape givesit excellent springiness combined with sturdiness. Also, closely spacedtines help round up tiny leaves. Turning the earth.

The metal bow rake (about $20) is thetraditional favorite for preparing soil for planting. The sturdy tinesbite into dirt clods, aid in mixing amendments into the soil, and helpsmooth planting areas. Some gardeners use the back to mark rows forplanting, then poke seed holes into the rows with the toothed side. A flat-headed version (about $17), without the “bow”attachment between head and handle, is good for light soil cultivation,but it can’t match the bow rake’s durability. A broad leveling rake (about $30), such as the one shown at left,is used for general grading or for putting in a lawn. If you have amajor landscaping project planned, you might want to buy one or rent one(usually $8 to $10 per day). Attacking thatch.

Clippings, stems, and other debris tend to buildup thatch in lawns that reduces water and fertilizer penetration and mayharbor unwelcome insects. To remove it, you can use a thatch rake(about $17) as shown above. Another version (about $17) with a headthat adjusts to different angles to suit your height is available fromA.M. Leonard, Box 816, Piqua, Ohio 45356; write for a free catalog.

Since dethatching with this rake requires muscle power andperseverance, if you have a large lawn you might want to rent a powerdethatcher (about $20 to $30 for 2 hours) instead. Shop for quality Rakes of a given type may look similar, but a close inspectionoften reveals differences in quality that account for higher prices.Look for a sturdy attachment of head to handle.

The grain in woodhandles should be even, fine, and perpendicular to the head. Some rakescome with aluminum handles, which can stain your hands black unless youwear gloves; you may want to buy one with a plastic sleeve around thetop half of the handle. Remember that all rakes will last longer if stored in a shed orgarage.

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