Friday, April 8, 2011

How Large a Rake Do You Need?

My heirloom rake gets the job done

Do I need a Tacoma pickup truck or an 18-wheeler to cart bags of pine-bark mulch from Sun Nurseries to our house?

Easy answer: My little Tacoma is just the right size, thank you, to haul about a dozen large bags. An 18-wheeler would be overkill—and the 90° bend in our narrow driveway would give fits to even a skilled big-rig driver.

And out in my garden, what size rake do I need for our flower and veggie gardens?

In her “A Cook’s Garden” column in the Washington Post, Barbara Damrosch shows a 29”-wide rake available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, one of my favorite catalog and online sites. I looked up the rake in the catalog, and wow, the rake must be the Lexus of rakes.

Called the Bed Preparation Rake, its Swiss-made aluminum head is 29” wide. The head, which has 20 four-inch teeth, is adjustable, to suit your height or the job at hand. There’s even one optional accessory: a pack of six plastic tubes that slip onto the teeth of the rake to mark rows or make a grid. Total: $76.00 for the rake and $4.95 for the tubes, plus $11.95 shipping.

If you have a huge garden, hire hands to care for your garden, or grow neurotic carrots or beets that require straight planting rows for their seed, then this $90 rake is probably just what you need. But do Susie Smith and John Doe gardeners, with their 15x15 veggie beds, need such a large and expensive tool?

This gardener doesn’t. Like most gardeners, I have an old garden rake in the garage. It was my dad’s. The head is standard width, 14”, plenty wide for raking jobs in my small, terraced veggie beds. No, its 14 teeth are not adjustable, but I simply raise or lower the handle to change the angle of the teeth whenever I wish. It works fine the two or three times a year I need a rake.

Low-priced row marker
Can I get along without having plastic tubes to put on my rake teeth to mark rows for crop planting? Well, yes, in ancient times my dad showed me how the rounded handle end of the rake makes a dandy tool to make a row in garden soil. A corner of a hoe blade works just as well. My veggies grow well even if their rows zig a little or zag a little.

This frugal gardener will make do with his heirloom rake, which has served two generations well even though it doesn’t have adjustable teeth.

To read Damrosch’s article and see her photo of the big rake, CLICK HERE.


  1. Enjoyed your article...Guess I won't be getting one of these rakes. My old ones work just fine! Did you know that you can take the side of the rake to make a row as well as the handle?

    We have a '91 Honda Civic that has served us through the years hauling our garden supplies and building materials for 3 houses that we have built. Might say that sometimes we were a sight, but our little trusty Honda has stood by us!

    Happy gardening!!

  2. Great suggestion: using side or corner of the rake to make a row for seeds, WVJ! Come to think of it, if I'm using my smallest rake (7"), I probably use one of its corner more than the handle to make a row.

    And your '91 Civic sounds almost as good as my Tacoma for hauling garden "stuff." But maybe the bed of my Tacoma wins when it comes to dumping in a load of composed leaves and horse manure. You'd better stick to bagged stuff and your building supplies.