Even if you have power tools to deal with your leaves, you’ll need a rake for left-behind leaves that are stuck in shrubs and between your plants. Plus, it’s nice to give the power tools a break sometimes and do the lawn by hand—the repetitive motion of raking leaves on a bright, crisp day under a clear blue sky can be an exercise in mindfulness, and it’s definitely an outdoor workout that fills your lungs with fresh air and uses the muscles in your back, shoulders, arms, and legs. You can even count 30 minutes of raking as your daily 30 minutes of moderate exercise!
Why buy a leaf rake?
Fallen leaves in forests decompose and enrich the soil, bringing nutrition for tree and plant growth and even for habitats for small creatures like worms, which aid in the decomposition process. It’s the circle of life! Why break it by raking up leaves? Well, you need to have leaf piles to jump in and throw leaves at your friends, right? That’s one reason to buy a rake. Another is that most of us don’t live in forests, and the social norm is to keep the lawn in order. Plus, the lawn won’t get the oxygen that it needs if it’s completely covered in leaves. Also, when wet weather comes, unraked leaf piles become a slippery, muddy mess and can welcome creatures that you don’t want living on your lawn like termites, snakes, roaches, and beetles.
What should you look for in a rake?
- Handle: A handle should be long enough that you can use it without having to bend over, but not so long that it’s unwieldy for your height: Choose one that’s between your chin level and slightly above the top of your head in length. It should also be made of a material that’s sturdy enough to last through the seasons. Typical durable handle materials are hardwood and metal. Keep in mind that while metal is very durable, it can be hard on the hands if you’ll be raking in cold weather. Beware of plastic handles, as they’re not very sturdy. Comfort features like soft grips and end cushions are useful when you have a lot of raking to do.
- Head: Two things are important about the head: how it’s joined to the handle and how wide it is. Some heads attach by inserting the handle into a ferrule (a tube or collar), which is usually secured with a single screw. Others are connected by two braces on each side, which are secured with screws on the head and the handle. Some rakes use both types of attachments. Check for craftsmanship on the attachments to make sure that they’re secure.
- Tines: Tines vary by length, shape, width, spacing, and curvature. They’re usually made of wood, metal, or plastic, which can be rigid or flexible. The spacing of the tines should be wide enough to get leaves caught in between them, but not so wide that the debris will pass through. More curvature means that you can “dig in” with less effort. A material that’s flexible but not very strong can lead to breaking tines.
What should you expect to spend on a rake?
They shouldn’t cost much. The rakes in this article range between $20 and $80, which is much less than a decent leaf blower, which could cost you around $100 to $200 or more. Plus, leaf blowers are noisy! Anyway, given the generally low cost of leaf rakes, you might want to focus first on deciding what features you want, and then look for the rake that will work for you. If you find yourself trying to choose between two similar rakes, why not go for the more affordable one?
Our Picks for the Best Rakes
TRG The Groundskeeper II Rake
Team up with this rake to tackle leaf-clearing work easily and painlessly.
Pros: Designed with a co-polymer head and a fiberglass hand, the TRG leaf rake weighs only 2 pounds. Because it’s light and features angled, spring-loaded tines, you won’t need to exert pressure on the rake as you pull leaves into a pile. Instead, you can stand (rather than bend) over to clean up the yard, raking faster and with less effort. Yes! The TRG design reduces work time by nearly 25%! How is that possible? The 21-inch head comprises 28 steel, round, and stiff tines. Most leaf rakes have flexible, flat lines. And the difference in design isn’t just for kicks. The curvature of the TRG tines makes it possible for you to rake leaves without damaging the green grass beneath. Of course, the TRG handles more than just fallen leaves! The stiff, high-arched tines grab onto sticks, twigs, gravel, you name it.
Cons: The TRF leaf rake requires assembly. There are easy-to-follow instructions, but a hammer is necessary. The handle length isn’t adjustable, which could be a drawback for users who are taller or shorter than average. Some might also find it to be a bit pricey.
Bottom Line: It seems as though the TRG Groundskeeper II Rake can do just about anything. It can handle gravel, mulch, and other hard-to-reach debris caught between border bushes and shrubs and fencing. There’s even a swivel hanger at the end of the handle for easy storage. You can also purchase replacement tines and a handle if you somehow wear them out.
Jardineer 73 inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake
A rake you can adjust on the spot for light-duty raking needs.
Pros: The Jardineer leaf rake is more than adjustable. It morphs from one rake to another quickly. You decide whether you want the high-grade steel head with 15 tines to expand into a 23-inch wide rake or contract to a 7-inch wide rake by opening the yellow lock found at the head of the rake. Each width serves its own purpose. The wider version handles wider piles of debris, collecting more at each pull of the rake. The more compact version is great for narrow spots between flower beds or hedges. And yet, the Jardineer design offers even more modification. To adjust the length of the rake’s 1-inch thick aluminum handle, rotate the gray rubber handle at the end and extend the length between 32 and 63 inches. This adjustment allows users of varying heights to avoid back strain. Additionally, this rake weighs a meager 1.37 pounds.
Cons: The Jardineer leaf rake isn’t meant to handle heavy-duty work involving gravel, dirt, or really heavy debris. It’s limited to plucking leaves caught in pebble paths, around bushes, and in flower beds, as well as performing some light-duty lawn leaf raking. Avid gardeners and landscapers would likely be disappointed with this lightweight rake.
Bottom Line: The bottom line on the Jardineer leaf rake is that it does a great job for what it’s designed to do: picking out hard-to-reach leaves and raking up smaller, lighter leaf piles. It’s remarkably adjustable and ergonomic. In other words, the Jardineer is accomodating to various body sizes, from tall adults to small kids.
A.M. Leonard Narrow Shrub Rak
This tough, durable shrub rake is designed to remove debris from hard-to-reach places.
Pros: Let’s get it out in the open. The A.M. Leonard rake is a shrub rake, not a leaf rake. Now, that doesn’t mean that raking leaves with it is impossible. It means that the rake is better suited to remove leaves from between shrubs. So how does it fit the bill of a great shrub rake? The 54-inch-long, 1-inch thick hardwood handle enables you to reach those normally hard-to-reach spaces. It’s also durable. The 8-inch wide rake head is attached through the handle with two sturdy bolts. Additionally, the spring-reinforced tines give the rake the ability to dig into a pile of wet leaves without wincing, like most would if they tried this with their bare hands. With its smaller head and stiffer tines, the A.M. Leonard shrub rake is made just for this type of dirty work, even dethatching the lawn, leveling mulch, and especially pulling debris from tight, thick-branched shrubs.
Cons: As previously covered, this rake is specialized in one type of leaf-removal work. It’s a shrub rake. If you’re looking for one of those good, old-fashioned leaf rakes from your childhood that creates gigantic leaf piles to play in, consider another product. Some users might also struggle to attach the head to the handle.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a good shrub rake, you’ve found one in the A.M. Leonard. The hardwood handle is nearly impossible to break while being used. Remove weeds and dead leaves from brambles and thorny rose bushes with ease.
Pros: At a loss for what to do with the piles of leaves that, while colorful, make a mess of your expansive lawn? Hail the Fiskars leaf rake—a gardening tool made to tackle jobs such as yours. To start with, the 67-inch long, durable handle allows you to rake without bending over while hopefully avoiding back pain. The rake’s durable, 24-inch wide resin head and 20 resin tines are assembled in a teardrop shape that allows for raking up large swaths of leaves. Also, the curved, extra-wide tines allow small debris to pass through so that your effort centers solely around leaf-raking. The Fiskars rake weighs a meager 5.9 ounces. The quality of lightness combined with length and a smart rake head design makes what could be sweaty, taxing leaf raking and makes it a lot easier.
Cons: As with the other rakes that we’ve discussed so far, the only drawbacks that you might find with the Fiskar rake are what it can’t do, according to design and intended use. This rake, for example, will perform poorly as a shrub rake. Using this wide-headed rake to get out leaves that are caught between shrubs would be a laughable experiment indeed.
Bottom Line: The Fiskars rake is a great product for raking lots of leaves in piles. When you’re ready to move your leaf piles, just flip the rake over and use it as a scoop to lift the leaves into a wheelbarrow or on a tarp. Plus, you can get it at an affordable price.
Bully Tools Leaf and Thatching Rake
This heavy-duty steel and fiberglass rake is up to the gnarly raking jobs.
Behold a strong contender for the most durable and heavy-duty leaf rake around: the Bully Tools Leaf and Thatching Rake! Its extra-thick, commercial-grade steel head and 24 wide, slightly curved spring steel tines are designed in that classic teardrop shape that allows you to cover wider ground and gather more leaves with each pass. Designed with a durable steel head and a 66.25-inch, high-strength, triple-wall, reinforced fiberglass handle, this rake could last for decades. Why fiberglass, you ask? Because it’s less expensive and more flexible than carbon fiber and stronger than many metals by weight, such as the aluminum that’s commonly used in leaf rakes. It’s also lightweight and easy to use. As a leaf and thatching rake, this Bully Tools product can be used to do the tough work of removing the dense layer of dead grass and leaves that threatens the health and appearance of lawns. And it can even move rocks and gather lofty piles of autumn leaves.
Cons: It’s more expensive than many other leaf rakes. At 3.4 pounds, some users might find it to be heavier than other rakes. Indeed, it’s the heaviest of the rakes that we’ve looked at.
Bottom Line: If you have some serious leaf raking or heavy-duty thatching work on the must-do list and are in decent shape, the Bully Tools rake could become your new favorite gardening gadget. We mention physical fitness simply because the rake is on the heavier side. Users with bad backs and lighter lawn tasks might want to consider the TRG, Jardineer, or Fiskars leaf rakes instead, or even the A.M. Leonard if they need a shrub rake.
Are you surprised by how such a simple tool has such a variety of materials used, innovative designs, and purposes beyond basic leaf raking? We were, too. Again, to avoid disappointment, be sure to know exactly the type of rake that you need. A good leaf rake can be handy year-round for removing unwanted vegetation and even trash from shrubs, lawns, and garden beds. Whatever the season or reason that you have to buy a rake, put it to good use and enjoy the fruits of your labor: a lovely, tidy yard.