2013-11-07 / From The Garden

Not Just Any Rake!

By Cynthia Gibson

Clog-free rake. Clog-free rake. After the strong winds this past week, much of our fall color fell to the ground in piles. In November, your rake becomes a very close friend. Walking through leaves and listening to their rustle is part of the music of fall, but raking leaves is simply backbreaking work. To lighten your burden this fall, use your lawn mower to mulch the blanket of leaves in your yard. A mulch mower is a powerful tool that quickly slices and dices your fall crop of leaves, and it makes them compost-ready as well.

It is best to hand rake around flowering crabapples and other fruit trees. Insects lay eggs on these leaves in autumn, and when they drop to the ground, they become an insect breeding ground for next year’s fruit trees. Hand rake these leaves and make sure they are destroyed.

Like every product, rakes have their trends and occasionally offer new features. One of the best leaf rakes you can buy today is the clog-free version. As the name implies, the tines of these rakes are designed to prevent your rake from getting clogged with pine needles and leaves. It costs about $20.

Flexible rake. Flexible rake. Hand rakes, or “leaf scoops,” turn the chore of raking into a game with children. They are brightly colored and fit the size of almost any hand. Made of plastic, hand rakes are particularly good for those hard-to-reach places under shrubs and hedges. Resembling giant lobster claws, they will give you a giggle while getting the job done. For $10 a pair, you cannot go wrong.

Perhaps the Rolls-Royce of leaf rakes is the “Deluxe Lawn Sweeper,” which is easier on your back and hands and is simple to maneuver. At $260, it should make lawn raking, or “sweeping,” quite simple. It is like walking a baby carriage across your lawn. There is a 31” rotary brush in front of a large waste bag that is easily removed to dispose of the leaves. For $240, you can purchase the smaller 26” model. Consider it a lawnmower, with you as its engine.

Leaf claws, also known as leaf scoops. Leaf claws, also known as leaf scoops. Last, but not least, Toro offers the Electric Blower/Vac, which is a combination leaf blower, mulcher, shredder, and vacuum tool. At $90, it is a worthy investment. Toro boasts that this machine can turn 16 bags of leaves into one single bag. However, you will need a long or multiple extension cords for large lawns.

Newport Hardware, located off Bellevue Avenue, might be small but it is mighty in its range of products. If something you need is not on their shelves, they will order it for you. They provide a quick turnaround and usually have your specially-requested fertilizer or rake within three days. That being said, their in-house selection of rakes is excellent and many are in the $20 to $30 range. The special thing about buying something at this neighborhood hardware store is that they treat everyone as a valued customer.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Besides raking the beautiful leaves of fall, it is also time for the beginning of fall clean up in the garden. . Leave four inches of space around trees when you mulch them. Remember to mow your lawn so it is short prior to mulching. Apply four inches of mulch for good cover now, as any grass or weeds will be killed by the snow, ice, and cold temperatures. . If you “over-summered” last year’s poinsettias, it is time to remove them from the closet and put them on a sunny southern-facing window sill. The bracts (leaves) will start growing and turning red soon. . Mums are in season and your dahlias are still in bloom as well. It’s time to make the last bouquets of flowers from your garden. . Hardier herbs like thyme and rosemary are still green. Pick those herbs and bring them into the house to dry on newspaper. Bottle the dried leaves for use during the winter and spring. Used jam jars work very well.

The weather is perfect to finish your garden weeding.

Plant spinach seeds for next spring; get a jump on your seeding.

Stake your newly-planted shrubs so the winds, ice, and snow of winter will not topple them.

It’s not too late to plant your flower bulbs for spring. Grape hyacinth, tulips, and fritillaria are ready for planting.

If you protect your rhododendron from wind and sunburn during the winter, go ahead and put in your burlap-wrapped stakes.

November is the ideal month for digging new flower and garden beds in our area. Mow your lawn very short to make your work easier.

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China appears to have originated the rake around 1100 B.C. Early rakes were wooden, rudimentary in shape, and bulky. They were used to rake grain and hay, as well as to clear land and refuse.

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