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Garden Rake Types

Updated on August 13, 2012

Rakes are a surprisingly multi-purpose group of gardening tools, there are many types of rakes each designed with a specific task or circumstance in mind. Some have a single purpose, while others have several. The following is a guide to a few of the many different types of garden rakes available at hardware stores and garden centres.

Leaf Rakes

Leaf rakes, used as their name suggest to rake up leaves, are built to be light and are often made of plastic and inexpensive. The tines often have a fanned arrangement with minimal spacing to prevent leaves from escaping. Two leaf rakes can be used as claws to move large quantities of raked leaves from one area of the garden to another. Leaf rakes should be kept upright ideally on a hanger when not in use as the plastic tines are easily broken, especially when stepped on with heavy steel-toed boots. Leaf rakes are not strong enough to be used to thatch lawns although they can be used to rake lawn mower clipping left when using a lawn mower that doesn’t have a catch-tray. Likewise lawn rakes shouldn’t be used to rake soils as the rake is the wrong shape, and the tines are too weak and will be damaged easily by rocks or hard, compacted soil.

An inexpensive, plastic garden leaf rake.
An inexpensive, plastic garden leaf rake. | Source

Bow Rakes, Nail Rakes & Flat Rakes

Both bow and nail rakes are used for cultivation and evening of garden beds. They can be used to break up soil that is not too heavily compacted. Bow rakes have a metal, bow-shaped frame between the handle and the tines which can allow large pieces of debris or rocks to pass over the tines during raking. Nail rakes in their simplest form are made from a line of nails hammered through a piece of wood attached to a handle. Modern versions of the nail rake are known as flat rakes. The flat edge of nail rakes and modern alternatives can be used to even out and push small amounts of soil. If the rake has a flat edge it can also be turned on its side and used to create a trench in the soil to plant vegetable or flower seed into. These rakes are the classic ones seen in cartoons where the handle of the rake flings up and hits the antagonist in the head when they are stepped on, and for this reason it is also best to store these rakes upright on hangers. The tines themselves can also be quite painful and can cause foot injury if stepped on.

Thatch Rakes

Thatch rakes have strong, widely-spaced, blade-shaped tines designed to reach and remove built-up thatch from under a lawn. Using thatch rakes for all but the smallest yards takes a great deal of time and effort. Because of this many people prefer to rent a mechanical dethatching machine instead when they want to remove the thatch from their lawn.

Hand Rakes

Similar in size to a hand trowel, hand rakes generally have between three and seven downwards facing metal tines. They are used for light weeding and breaking up soil, and for preparing annual flower or vegetable seed beds, especially in raised garden beds. Due to their size they are not suitable for large areas or for using in hard, compacted soils.

Landscaping Rakes

Landscaping rakes generally have shorter tines and a broader, flat top for spreading mulch and moving soil in order to create a graded, contoured surface when establishing a new garden which is essential for having good drainage patterns. Many modern landscaping rakes are manufactured from highly-tempered aluminium alloys which are strong yet lightweight which helps to reduce fatigue during extended use.


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