Smooth Moves: Gliding Through Spring Cleanup with a Sweet Adjustable Rake. Tool Talk Part Two…

Cleaning Up Without Damaging Bulbs (After photo)

Cleaning up with an adjustable rake pulled to a tight setting (During)

OK. So I am feeling a little sore tonight. I admit it. Shoulders; triceps; middle back = Ouch. I have been busy with spring clean up in a few of my client’s gardens, among them, the lovely Walker Farm. But that isn’t why I’m feeling sore. A saner person would probably come home, have a tall glass of ice water and hop in a hot bath. Me? Oh no. When I get home from my garden work, I go out to work in my own garden. So, I am burning a few calories these days, and I am left with more than a few burning muscles.

I tidied up the Secret Garden today, which until recently was still too wet to disturb. It’s important to tread lightly in early spring, for although the weather may be dry, your soil may still be saturated. But, a bit of clean up is usually necessary to air out beds, and create an attractive backdrop for emerging bulbs. One of the most challenging aspects to this spring chore, is raking around delicate narcissus, crocus, and other ephemeral beauties. I knocked a few heads off today, (sorry girls), but overall, the improvement was worth the light collateral damage.

Last spring when I presented one of my garden seminars, “Waking Up the Garden in Spring”, (coming up again April 17th, admission is free at Walker Farm in VT, please call to pre-register), I demonstrated what I consider an indispensable tool in both my own garden, and the others under my care. This isn’t an expensive object, by any means. In fact at most garden centers and hardware stores, the adjustable metal rake usually rings in under $15. There are more expensive versions, but I actually like this cheap one the best. And last year, about a week after the seminar, I stopped in at the local hardware store to pick one up for a friend, and they were sold out. “Someone gave a garden maintenance talk in town last weekend”, said the clerk, “and now we’re sold out. I wish they would have warned me in advance”. Rut-ro. I avoided eye contact, sheepishly added my name to the waiting list and slipped away before the nice lady figured it out. I guess I should warn her about that this year? I keep forgetting…

Adjustable rake in open position on a pile of debris

In case you’ve never tried one of these little babies, I will give you a quickie demonstration here. See the photo just above? That is my adjustable rake in the open position, resting on a pile of debris from the Secret Garden. There are no bulbs up in this shady room -since the snow only recently receded-so I can use the rake in its wide position and move quickly through the courtyard. However, moving out into the entry garden, there were many narcissus to dodge, (see the photos, top of the article). So, in order to handle this delicate situation, I simply pulled the lever, reducing the width of the rake, (see photos before), and the length of the tines. The rubbery red handle then moves back to the locked position. Sweet! When raking out perennial beds, I always advise gardeners to use a light hopping-motion, never pull and/or drag. Gently pop up debris and lift it out with an aerating motion. This is easier on your body, and the garden…

Rake adjustment handle

Adjustable rake in closed position, (good for tight spots around bulbs and perennials)

This little rake is also handy for spreading mulch around perennials and for tidying up steps and tight corners in the garden. I love the thing. Bamboo rakes are very cute, but I trash them in a matter of weeks. And those flexible-fingered adjustable rakes are never strong enough to really move debris. And forget plastic. Plastic is fine for lawn, but it just isn’t strong enough for the rough terrain in my garden. So here you have it. The ultimate dance partner for your perennial garden clean-up chores. It could be the Fred Astaire to your Ginger Rogers, or vice-versa. Just put on some music and go to town….

You can buy a adjustable rake like this one, (mine is Greenthumb brand), at many True Value and Ace Hardware stores, as I did. Or, you can order one online. They are inexpensive, (usually around $10-$12) and easy to use. Keep yours dry and well oiled and it will last for years.

Here is a link to an,($9.99) Adjustable Steel Rake at

There may be other sources online, but I think I am going to go run a hot bath now. I will catch up with you again soon..


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3 Replies to “Smooth Moves: Gliding Through Spring Cleanup with a Sweet Adjustable Rake. Tool Talk Part Two…”

  1. Lynda S

    This is great. I hate dragging a bunch of tools around my little acre. This would save me having to drag two rakes! Thanks for sharing!

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