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What you need to know about raking leaves

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Rake them wet or rake them dry?

Raking leaves is one fall chore that never seems finished. As soon as you are done clearing a large area of leaves, a cool breeze kicks in and covers the ground again — or an afternoon rain soaks the yard before you are able to finish.
Woman raking leaves

If you don't have too many leaves, you can just let them fall and blow around, as they will eventually decompose and nourish the soil. But if you have so many leaves that they cover plants and your lawn, you need to remove them. Is it better to rake leaves when wet or dry? We've got the pros and cons.

Rake them wet

Did the rainy season come a bit early this fall? If so, you may need to rake wet leaves from your lawn and bedding areas. Leaving a layer or more of wet leaves on top of your lawn prevents water, nutrients and sunlight from reaching your grass, and it sets you up for potential fungal problem later on.

Pros

  • You can rake wet leaves even on a windy day, since they won't blow away.
  • Waiting until the leaves are wet means you waited longer to rake, and you may only have to do it once.
  • Piling your wet leaves in a specific area encourages leaf mold to develop, and in six months to a year you will have a pile of rich soil amendment for your garden.

Cons

  • Wet leaves take up more space in leaf bags or in your yard waste cart.
  • You need to be extra careful when raking wet leaves because they are very slippery.
  • A leaf blower won't work with wet leaves.
  • There is more potential for damaging plants below wet leaves because you need to rake more forcefully.

Rake them dry

Dry leaves are easier to rake than wet. If you add dry leaves to your compost bin or pile, they provide a "brown" ingredient that offsets the "green" additions like grass clippings.

Pros

  • Dry leaves on your lawn can be mowed over, as long as they aren't piled too high. Since shredded leaves decompose more quickly, you can leave finely shredded leaves on top of the lawn.
  • Dry leaves take up less space in your yard waste cart or in bags, and bags are lighter than bags full of wet leaves.
  • If you prefer, you can use a leaf blower to gather larger quantities of dry leaves.

Cons

  • If you prefer to rake leaves when they are dry, you may need to rake several times during the fall season, rather than just once.
  • If you rake dry leaves into piles and don't have time to dispose of them before the first rain, you will have a more difficult time removing them if the piles become wet.

Whether you love to rake or find it a chore, the payoff for your efforts is the shade these beautiful trees will provide next summer.

More fall outdoors

Fall window box ideas
A lazy girl's guide to cleaning up fall leaves
Best outdoor plants for fall

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