Rake and Take Master Gardener Project: Coordinating Fallen Leaves into Gardener’s Gold

{Editors note: The Howard County Maryland Master Gardeners  Rake and Take volunteer program that helps turn one’s surplus of leaves into another one’s mulch and compost was worth waiting to share for National Volunteer Week, Earth Day and Arbor Day celebrations – as it hits on all these themes. Thank you Pat Hooker and the HCMDMGs for sharing the story about how this program is coordinated and implemented. – Karen Jeannette}

What is Rake and Take?

“Rake and Take” is a program of the University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners which pairs leaf ‘Rakers’ with leaf ‘Takers’.

Rake and Flyer

Clip from ‘Rake and Take’ flyer

Rakers agree to bag pesticide/herbicide-free leaves and place them at the curb of their residences. Takers agree to pick up the bags. Takers either use the leaves for their own compost piles or shred the leaves for mulch.  Some leaves even make it to the compost demonstration sites in Howard County (see our composting page for more info) via members of the HC/MD/MG Composting Committee.

While most of the Takers have been Master Gardeners, the Rake and Take program is open to any Howard County citizen and several non-Master Gardeners participate, especially those who have recently become interested in composting.

Information about the composting demonstration sites is included in the promotional Rake and Take flyer.

What does Rake and Take Look Like?

First the ‘Rakers’ rake and bag

Raking leaves

Raking Leaves

Bags of leaves waiting to be shredded

Bags of leaves waiting to be shredded

Then the “Takers’ shred leaves


Shredding leaves under tree

Then “Takers’ mulch….

Some leaves mulch garden beds

Some leaves mulch garden beds

..or make compost

Some leaves go to compost heap

Some leaves go to compost heap

Insulating compost pile in late fall with leaf bags

(The compost pile gets insulated in late fall with leaf bags)

The compost is cooking

The compost ‘cooking’

Compost - 'black gold' on a garden bed

Compost – ‘black gold’ on a garden bed

Rakers and Takers Get an Opportunity to Talk ‘Compost’

Sometimes Master Gardener Takers have an opportunity to have a conversation with Rakers and this year we are asking them to share a Backyard Composting brochure to educate more people about composting. When Takers have a chance to interact with Rakers it is a very positive experience for both and helps spread the word about good gardening practices.

How Rake and Take is Coordinated

As the Rake and Take coordinator, I keep a database of names, addresses with zip codes, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of participants. Both Rakers and Takers register with me annually. When a Raker notifies me they have leaves available I use the zip code to match with a Taker in the same general neighborhood (for the sake of mutual convenience) if I already have a Taker name.

Otherwise I send a notice to the Howard County Master Gardeners e-mail list stating the number of bags and the general location of the leaf pickup. When I get a response, I provide the contact information to the Taker, who then makes pickup arrangements with the Raker. I make a point of not including personal contact information on the e-mail list posting since that is freely available to the general public on the web. In some cases people who have been paired one year contact one another directly the following year and the relationship continues from one year to the next.

Promoting Rake and Take

The program is advertised through local newspapers, on our Howard County MG Rake and Take website and on the Howard County Green Central Station website. Lindsay DeMarzo who writes a blog for Green Central station in Howard County MD has recently done a very nice posting “Share the Wealth with Rake and Take’ about our Rake and Take program. Additionally we distribute the Rake and Take flyer at the Plant Clinics during the late summer and fall months.

If you are interested in coordinating a Rake and Take project near you, we’d be happy to answer any question you may by contacting us through our  Howard County MG Rake and Take website.

by Pat (Patricia) Hooker
Howard County MD Master Gardener

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