A landscaping plus for shade, windbreaks and privacy screens, pine trees (Pinus spp.) also produce lots of litter. Depending on the type, pines are generally hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10. Their long, slippery needles clog up most conventional rakes and can be a chore to rake up. Cones are even more difficult to collect. For large yards, consider specialized tractor needle rakes. Dead pine needles, called pine straw, make good mulch. They're a marketable commodity in the South, especially from longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), hardy in zones 7 through 10a.
Conventional rakes have closely set tines that need frequent cleaning to remove the long, slender needles. Pine cones are bulky and often heavy. Look for rakes with stiff, widely spaced tines. Some possibilities are the RPM EZ rake, the Amazing Rake and the Shake push rake -- a rake attachment for your shovel.
If you have a large lot planted with pine trees, consider a needle rake attachment for your garden tractor, ATV or riding mower. Dump rakes, with teeth 4 inches apart and a mechanism for lifting and lowering the rake, and spring teeth rakes do the job. But Louisiana State's AgCenter engineer Dr. Dick Parish advises that these can also tear up underlying turf. A small landscape wheel rake has offset wheels with tines, and can be set so it doesn't disturb grass or soil.
- Louisiana State University AgCenter: LSU AgCenter Engineer Offers Choices for Raking Pine Straw
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Harvesting Pine Straw for Profit
- Chico News and Review: Rake It, Quick Like
- Lightning Fast RPM EZ Hand Rake: Video
- Great North Landscape Products: Amazing Rake
- Youtube: The Shake Push Rake
Carolyn Csanyi began writing in 1973, specializing in topics related to plants, insects and southwestern ecology. Her work has appeared in the "American Midland Naturalist" and Greenwood Press. Csanyi holds a Doctor of Philosophy in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.