Raking Leaves Safely
With the recent 70 degree temperatures it certainly hasn’t felt like fall, but with football and the falling leaves we can’t be fooled. Eventually thousands of leaves will be covering our lawns and gardens. In gardens, the leaves can be left alone; on the lawns though they should be removed. While raking and mowing leaves are both great ways to get outside and enjoy fresh air, they can cause aches, pains, and even serious injury. Therapeutic Associates and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have helpful tips to prevent injury and stay safe.
Warm up first for this aerobic activity.
Raking is an aerobic activity that uses major muscle groups and is a good way to burn calories. If you don’t exercise regularly or have a medical condition, ask for help or hire someone to do the raking.
Before grabbing the rake, warm-up for about 10 minutes with some stretches and light exercise. Dress in layers to stay warm, layers can be removed as you warm-up, be mindful of hats or scarves that may obstruct your vision, and don’t forget gloves to protect your hands from blisters. To keep from slipping on wet leaves, wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
Use a rake comfortable for your height and strength.
Use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength. A rake handle that is to short may strain your back, if it is to heavy it will put added strain on your neck and shoulders, and one that is to long will decrease leverage. Ergonomic rakes are available, which are designed for comfort, easy to use, and prevent injury.
Rake using proper technique.
While raking, keep the rake handle close to your body to promote a straight back, turn with your whole body and use the legs to shift your weight. Alternating leg and arm positions frequently will reduce stress on muscles. Be watchful of holes in the ground, or other tripping hazards and of critters that may be nesting in the leaves. Pace yourself and take regular breaks, get a drink of water and do some light stretching.
Follow mowing safety when mowing leaves.
When mowing leaves the safety tips are the same as when you mowed the yard this summer. Give the yard a once over to remove toys and other objects that may become projectiles. Wear protective gear such as safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, boots and long pants to protect eyes, ears and limbs. Use a stick or broom handle to clear debris that gets caught under the mower, not your hands for feet. (This goes for the snow blower as well this winter). Never remove the safety devices; they are there for a reason, and never leave a lawn mower unattended. To keep your children safe, never let them ride on the lawn mower and keep them out of the area being mowed.
Mulch your garden with your leaves.
Now that the leaves are raked or mowed, put the leaves to good use in your gardens. Use shredded or chopped leaves as mulch in the garden, add them to the compost pile, or make leaf mold. See Leaf Mold/Raking Leaves articles from Oct-2013 Digging In Dodge (PDF, 1 page, 46 KB).
Certified Master Gardener