Last year the Parks department hauled away the big leaf pile from in front of my house. They vacuumed all the leaves off Richard’s boulevard, too.
I was happy about it, but Richard had wanted to keep his leaves.
Instead of grass, Richard has planted his boulevard with drought-tolerant decoratives.
A thick layer of mulch protects against drought in summer, as well as insulating from the cold in winter. Leaves make great mulch, so Richard had intentionally raked his leaves onto the boulevard garden.
I suppose that because most of the perennials had died back for the season, and because Richard had raked the leaves so thickly onto the boulevard, the garden bed was obscured. The vacuum guys must ‘ve thought it was just another curbside pick up.
This year Richard was in his yard when the Parks truck came by. They were thrilled to hear he was making good use of his leaves. Then they asked, “Would you like some more?”
On our farm there wasn’t much call for leaf raking, so I grew up thinking a rake was just a rake. Then I got together with C & his wonderful world of tools. Who knew that all rakes are not created equal?
I recognized the classic rake. That’s the one a comic character steps on & is thwacked in the head by its handle. We had one of those back home (and yes, I’d stepped on it by mistake).
It turns out this kind of rake is designed for shifting sand & gravel. I now use it on the pathways that lead up our ‘mountain’.
The oddest rake in C’s repertoire is also used for leveling ground but in a different way. It specializes in more delicately shifting wider swaths of soil. He used it on the freshly tilled front yard, making sure that the ground sloped away from the house, before he seeded the lawn.
Inevitably the season turns to autumn & as tidy urbanites we turn our attention to removing the leaves that clutter our tidy lawn.
The apple leaf is flat and small. Once off the tree, the leaves take up very little space. They fit nicely in the bed of the surrounding shrub border (as mulch).
The bamboo rake can handle this task, but not much more. It’s nice that this rake is mostly biodegradable. but it just doesn’t stand up to heavy use. It’s not so nice heading back to the store to purchase yet another replacement.
If there’s a good rain before I get out to rake things up, the delicate apple leaves mush deeply into the grass. That’s when I prefer a metal rake. It’s stronger & moves the wet clumps of leaves nicely. The tines are narrow & the dry small leaves sometimes slip through, so it’s not a total replacement for the bamboo rake.
There’s a similar rake that has an adjustable head. (+ telescoping handle). In the wide position, this rake is good for moving the wet clumps caught in the grass. In the narrow position, it’s good for getting into tighter spots, or moving those small dry apple leaves. What’s not as handy is the extra weight. That said, I’m glad to have it around.
The garry oak tree supplies a much tougher job. First to come off the oaks are the acorns. They’re small but have a bit of weight to them. When they fall from the full height of the tree, they pick up some good velocity & strike the ground hard – – practically planting themselves in the lawn.
Like the mushy apple leaf issue, these little nuts are a bit of a challenge to remove. The rake that works well for this is also a metal rake, but one with tines that have some width to them. They’re strong enough to reach down into the grass, and are close enough together to catch the acorns & pull them along.
The second challenge with the garry oak is the leaf durability. Compared to apple leaves, which break down over 1 winter – – garry oak leaves take 3 to break down! For that reason, I prefer to compost them before they end up in the garden beds.
We rake the leaves into piles… shift each pile onto a big tarp… and haul them over to our composting area.
The third challenge is the shear volumes. The much larger, curled, garry oak leaves that come off our trees could fill up a pickup truck – – each week. (Leaves typically fall for 8 weeks)
There are 6 garry oak trees around our yard – – and many more in the adjacent yards. That’s a lot of leaves. And a whole lot of raking.
The rake we use for clearing up acorns is also my pick for raking oak leaves. The issue turns out to be the hardiness of the rake. In the past we used the $10 version sold everywhere. We’d easily went through 4-5 rakes in one season. Aghhh! I was pissed about repeatedly spending $50 a year on a crappy product.
Then we found a version with sturdier components & design. Even the handy butterfly nut & bolt that attaches the handle to the rake allowed for replacing a broken handle. It cost $30, and is heavier than the cheaper rake. but I figured it was worth the extra effort to try a sturdier rake. We bought one for each of us.
It definitely paid off. It’s been 5 years, & the rakes are still up to the task. We haven’t even needed to swap out a broken handle!
Just reducing the frustrations of replacing busted rakes is worth the heavier weight and higher price tag.
Paying $60 up front (for 2 sturdy rakes) was cost effective too. If we’d continued using the cheaper rakes:
$50 x 5 years = $250 on the crappy rakes!
I’ve learned three lessons.
I’m convinced quality tools are worth spending a little extra money on.
I get a kick out of the variety in C’s wonderful world of tools.
And I’m slowly learning how much nicer it is to use a tool specialized for the task at hand. 🙂