Raking is a garden task that smoothes and levels-out ground that has been recently dug over, ready for planting, sowing or laying turf. Other uses include leveling areas of gravel or sand, and for creating gravel swirls used in Japanese gardens.
The garden rake is a versatile tool, used mainly for breaking down the soil ready for sowing and planting. It can also be used on its edge to form seed drills. After sowing, the rake can then be used to draw back the soil to cover the seeds.
The more teeth a rake has, the finer the tilth it can produce. Ideally choose a minimum 1 ft (30cm) wide rake with at least 12 teeth for general garden tasks. For soil leveling use one with metal head made of carbon steel (painted or epoxy coated). Stainless steel rakes are available but offer no real advantages, apart from the fact that they won't rust easily and are easier to keep clean. Rakes can have handles of wood, metal or plastic (polypropylene). Ensure that wooden handles are smooth and not rough or damaged. It is always wise to wear gloves when using a wooden handled tool to prevent splinters.
Once the soil has been dug over with a fork or spade it can be worked down further with the rake to create a fine tilth ready for sowing or planting. This is achieved by drawing the tines of the rake back and forth across the surface of the ground, to break up lumps and drag stones and hard clumps to the edges for removal.
You can also tamp-down the soil to either break it down further or consolidate it. This is done by holding the rake vertically (head down) and tapping it firmly over the soil. Tamping is mainly used for firming the soil ready for laying turf.
For landscaping, larger rakes (up to 3 ft (100cm)) can be used to spread and level larger areas of topsoil. They have a longer straight edge that can be used for precise leveling.
For spring tine rakes see Lawn Care Products.
If you have very lumpy or stony soil, a meshed garden sieve (or riddle) can be used to separate coarse lumpy material and stones, especially when preparing seedbeds. Sieves are available with different mesh sizes or you can buy one with a selection of graded inserts.