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 centers
and nurseries offer more choices than ever in rakes to help you with
different tasks. Here we display the various types and give some
guidelines for choosing ones that will work best for you.

Making a clean sweep. The broad rakes shown on this page are
excellent for clearing leaves, clippings, and other debris. A newcomer
is the rubber-tine model pictured above left. The soft, flexible tines
are 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, Mill
Valley, Calif. 94941; free catalog.

Durable plastic rakes (about $10) have the advantages of being
lightweight and springy, and they don’t make the unpleasant grating
sound typical of metal ones. They’re especially effective as lawn
rakes. Steel rakes (about $12) with flat tines are now available with
sturdy spring construction, as pictured below. This produces an
exceptionally flexible rake that readily picks up leaves and other
debris, 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 gives
it excellent springiness combined with sturdiness. Also, closely spaced
tines help round up tiny leaves.

Turning the earth. The metal bow rake (about $20) is the
traditional favorite for preparing soil for planting. The sturdy tines
bite into dirt clods, aid in mixing amendments into the soil, and help
smooth planting areas. Some gardeners use the back to mark rows for
planting, 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 a
major 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 build
up thatch in lawns that reduces water and fertilizer penetration and may
harbor unwelcome insects. To remove it, you can use a thatch rake
(about $17) as shown above. Another version (about $17) with a head
that adjusts to different angles to suit your height is available from
A.M. Leonard, Box 816, Piqua, Ohio 45356; write for a free catalog.

Since dethatching with this rake requires muscle power and
perseverance, if you have a large lawn you might want to rent a power
dethatcher (about $20 to $30 for 2 hours) instead. Shop for quality

Rakes of a given type may look similar, but a close inspection
often reveals differences in quality that account for higher prices.
Look for a sturdy attachment of head to handle. The grain in wood
handles should be even, fine, and perpendicular to the head. Some rakes
come with aluminum handles, which can stain your hands black unless you
wear gloves; you may want to buy one with a plastic sleeve around the
top half of the handle.

Remember that all rakes will last longer if stored in a shed or


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