About the only negative aspect of fall for most people is facing a yard covered in a thick layer of dry, crispy leaves. While many people use a leaf blower to tackle this task, it's a much more environmentally friendly option to rake them up. With a little preparation and by following a few tips, you can make your leaf-raking days much easier.

Right preparation

Look for a day with no wind – or at least make sure the wind is blowing in the direction you want to rake the leaves. There's nothing worse than a gust of wind tearing apart your big leaf pile! Make sure it hasn't rained recently. Dry leaves are much lighter and easier to move than wet leaves. And walk the area beforehand to pick up sticks and branches that would be difficult to rake up.

Right tools

Make sure you have a large, sturdy rake. Some people prefer metal or plastic tines, but the most important thing is to make sure it's strong enough to push a pile of leaves. You also need leather gloves to prevent blisters on your hands. Another helpful item is a large tarp for transporting small piles of leaves into a bigger pile for bagging or to the compost heap. If you have allergies, consider a dust mask to cover your nose and mouth, as well as googles or glasses to protect your eyes.

Raking day

Take care of yourself on raking day. Wear long sleeves, long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes to avoid scratches and surprises such as poison ivy leaves mixed with your tree leaves. Maintain good posture so you don't ache at the end of the day. Remember to stand straight, don't twist too much, alternate raking toward the left and right, and bend down to pick up a pile. Take plenty of rest breaks and drink lots of water, too.

Make raking as easy as possible – rake downhill, not uphill! Also, use small sweeping motions rather than large ones. This will pick up leaves and debris more efficiently.

Avoid work

If you don't have too many leaves, consider running your mulching lawn mower over the area to cut them up or bag the mulch. On the other end of the time scale, consider waiting until all the leaves have fallen off your trees (and neighbors' trees!) so you only have to rake once. Instead of bagging the leaves or mulching, consider composting them. Brown leaves make an ideal base for a new compost pile.

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