It’s leaf-clearing season in much of the United States, and nothing beats a good rake in terms of completing this chore with minimal noise, air pollution and cost. Raking also counts as exercise. But not all rakes are created equal. “Different rakes serve different purposes, and some perform unique tasks,” says Kim Roman, who runs Square Foot Gardening 4 U, a business that teaches small-space vegetable-gardening methods.

To clear leaves off a lawn, for example, you need a lawn rake, which has long, thin, flexible tines spread in a fan shape, Roman says. A bow rake, which has short, sturdy tines in a straight line, works for removing weeds, leveling soil or spreading mulch. Adjustable lawn rakes can be made narrow to get under bushes. There are also potato hoes that can be used as rakes, landscape rakes and even functional child-size rakes for your favorite little helpers.

Once settled on a type of rake, test the weight of a few options.

“You’re moving heavy stuff. There’s no reason the rake should be heavy, too,” says Daryl Beyers, author of “The New Gardener’s Handbook.”

Beyers prefers rakes with fiberglass or wooden handles for their durability. Aluminum handles are light but might not last as long, he says. Steer clear of plastic rakes. “They’re usually not of good quality and may break easily,” Roman says. And don’t worry about ergonomic handles or anything “extra.” It’s easy enough to add foam-pipe insulation around the handle for comfort, an idea Roman borrowed from her friend Toni Gattone, a master gardener.

We asked Roman, Beyers and Coleman Cosby, owner of Coleman Cosby Landscape Design and project manager at online landscape design company Yardzen, to share their favorite rakes for any job. Here are their picks.


1. Lawn rakes

For a big yard with a lot of leaves, consider the heavy-duty Bully Tools lawn and leaf rake (, says Roman, author of “How to Garden Indoors & Grow Your Own Food Year Round.” With its fiberglass handle and 30-inch-wide rake head, “it’s a serious rake for a serious yard,” she says. Pro tip: Old, mulched-up leaves make excellent fertilizer. Get most of the leaves off the lawn with your rake, then run over the rest with your mower to help them decompose.

Wood rakes have “a good feel,” Cosby says, “and are very durable as long as they are not exposed to moisture for long periods.” (Roman suggests pulling leaves and debris off all rakes after each use, drying the tools with a cloth and hanging them up with the tines facing the wall to protect them and to prevent long poles from toppling onto people.) Sneeboer’s leaf rake ($74-$89, has a lifetime guarantee. It’s available in small (6 inches wide) and large (14.5 inches wide), and it has stainless-steel tines and an ash handle. The larger size is useful for lawns; the small size can reach under bushes in garden beds.

Or, instead of having two sizes for different jobs, try an adjustable rake, Roman says. “Since I tend to multitask, I like tools that do the same.” Bond’s steel rake adjusts between seven and 25 inches, so if she’s raking the lawn and notices leaves under a bush, she can make it smaller to fit the tighter space (

2. Bow rakes

Bow rakes are useful for clearing objects heavier than leaves. They can smooth soil, break up dirt, grade soil and gravel, and move rocks. The Fiskars pro rake ($63.43, is a good lightweight aluminum choice, according to Cosby and Roman.

“The tines can comb out larger debris [from] the soil, and I use the straight edge of the back of the rake to smooth” out grading or decomposed granite, Cosby says.

3. Landscape rakes

Slightly tougher and wider than a bow rake, a landscape rake can smooth out large areas of dirt and bigger gravel, such as when cleaning up a rock path or driveway, Beyers says. The Leonard landscape rake ($59.99, has an ash handle with a steel tube welded to the tine section. It can also be used to push, gather, backfill, cultivate and break up soil.

4. Potato hoes

A garden hoe can double as a tool for cultivating soil and removing weeds. Technically, the Ames four-tine forged cultivator ($24.98, is made for digging up potatoes or into hard, rocky soil. But Beyers, who is also the gardening certificate program coordinator at the New York Botanical Garden, uses it “for scratching the soil [and] getting it ready for seeding.” It’s also perfect for getting into tight spots or spreading mulch.

5. For kids

Children often enjoy helping with yard tasks, but they might have trouble managing full-size tools. Roman likes the rake in Fiskars’ kids’ cleanup set ($21.99, It’s sturdy, with a lightweight aluminum handle that’s perfect for little hands, and “will serve your children well until they’re ready for adult-sized tools,” says Roman, who enjoys gardening with her grandchildren.