Although a general-purpose wire or bamboo rake is fine for raking leaves and grass and cleaning up around shrubs and perennials, some unusual new rakes are designed for specific gardeners and specific fall gardening chores. After National Gardening staffers tested the rakes, some definite favorites emerged. Here are three good ones.
Adjustable Rake, made of steel and aluminum, can be adjusted for length and width. It's great for raking in tight spaces, such as between foundation plants. Sliding the metal handle back inside itself varies the length from 35 to 69 inches making it an excellent choice for very tall or short people, children, or wheelchair-bound gardeners. You can also adjust the spread of the steel tines from 7 to 22 inches. The rake's lightweight construction, slim handle, and adjustable features make it very versatile but perhaps not as strong as a regular metal leaf rake. The price is $17.
Super Rake, based on the twin-blade shaving concept, has two closely spaced but differently angled sets of sharp, flexible plastic teeth. It promises to be more efficient than a standard single-head rake. Depending on your gardening style, this rake's lightweight plastic construction and wooden handle have their pros and cons. This is the greatest rake you can own, according to one NG staffer and long-time fan, who uses hers for general cleanup and scooping up hedge and grass trimmings. Although the rake is clearly not intended for heavy chores, its super light weight and manageable 57-inch height make it effective for most lighter chores. It costs $15.
ErgoConcept Rake has made some improvements on the bent-handle ergonomic rake. Its spongy handle grip, all testers agreed, is very comfortable. Like other ergonomic rakes, it has a long, angled aluminum handle so you won't have to bend while raking. At 54 inches, it's well suited to taller gardeners. The one-piece molded lightweight plastic head comes in two widths, and while you can rake a broader swath with the 30-inch model, most testers found the 24-inch version easier to work with. The prices are $30 for the 24-inch rake and $32 for the 30-inch rake.
Shila Patel is the gardening editor at marthastewart.com.