A fall rite of passage for homeowners, raking leaves is as simple as most yardwork comes. Nonetheless, there’s still a smart and a not-so-smart way to do the job. If you’d rather spend less time corralling fallen foliage and more time enjoying the season, here are some tips on how to rake like a pro. 

Wait it out

There’s no need to launch your yard-wide raking efforts early. It’s smart to keep your pathways and high-traffic areas clear on a regular basis, but wait to tackle the lawn until all the leaves have fallen. If you pride yourself on maintaining an immaculate yard, it may be hard to hold off, but taking care of most of your raking in one fell swoop will save you from having to repeat the process all over again later.

Mind the wind

Nothing can undo your raking work faster than a strong wind. If you’re able to choose the day you rake, try to work on one that’s calm. If you must do the job in the wind, rake in the same direction as the breeze. Raking against the wind only helps gusts pick up the leaves and toss them around.

Choose the right tools

You might have a sweet spot for that old hand-me-down metal rake with the bent tines, but you may be better served by newer or more specialized tools. Leaf rakes come in a range of sizes and constructions (including ergonomic varieties), and other leaf clearing options include push-power lawn sweepers, lawn vacuums, mulching mowers and leaf blowers.

Work efficiently

The leaves will make plenty of work for you. Don’t make extra work for yourself. For starters, try to rake after a stretch of dry weather so you won’t have to struggle with masses of wet, heavy leaves. Rake small piles onto a tarp or plastic sheeting, then drag the piles to a central point to be bagged, composted or burned.

Work safe

Raking leaves rarely qualifies as dangerous work, but it’s still important to take care of your body while doing the job. First, warm up with some light stretching and practice the proper raking procedure. While working, maintain good posture, stand upright and alternate your main (bottom) hand occasionally. When lifting heavy weight, bend at the knees, not the back. Take breaks and drink water, and divide your work up over days or among people if needed.

By following these strategies, you can banish your leaf piles with less effort and move onto more productive or enjoyable fall diversions.