The Rake's Progress
OK, yes, I titled this blog post but it was very hard. It's about autumn and cleaning up and how I completely messed that up when I had my first garden. It was hard because there were so many other good choices such as:
Falling Down on the Job
Don't Leaf it to Chance
Lawn Story Short
You get the idea. Anyway, I didn't grow up in the city but I was clueless about fall clean up. My parents weren't rich but we lived in a comfortable burb on 1/4 acre. Everyone in my neighborhood lived on exactly the same amount of land. The watering was set by dial in the basement and everyone had a gardener. Not just one gardener, really. A bunch of garden hands who would leap off the truck and do everything you needed. Grass was trimmed, boxwoods pruned to a tabletop finish. You were fertilized, pesticided. And before you noticed they were there, they were gone. No trace of mess remained. Branches, leaves and clippings disappeared like magic. Our lawn and all others were kept in pristine condition -- all looked like slightly bushy astroturf. My mother was nearly considered a hippie because she was one of the few who planted her own flowers and vegetables.
So while I planted seeds, flats of flowers and my own impressive tomato stand -- I never had to do the dirty work. When I finally got my own home and garden in the country I didn't know squat but the cruel part is -- I thought I did.
We bought our house in winter, planted in spring, enjoyed in summer and then like good NE residents we hooked ourselves up to the ol' apple cider and maple syrup IV. Fall festivals, pumpkins and enjoying the nip in the air as the leaves turn color while we sipped wine on the screened-in porch.
Yes to me leaves falling = charming. I was a big fan of leaves. In college I was even in this Vermont dance troupe you see here for one blissful season.
But then came the day the trees stopped being charming and started freaking me out. We have a few trees and are also next to a forest that is thick and wild -- a favorite for deer and turkey hunters. The oak dumped leaves so fast our lovely lawn became a thick brown crackling carpet virtually overnight.
We raked: Two people, two rakes. We raked more. Didn't make a dent. We had a lot more land than I grew up on and no hired help.
Help came in the form of our good friends Angie and Steve who kindly spent a day raking when they were visiting us from the city. Laying sheets out, rake, drag the sheet to a place to dump, repeat. Frankly, I can't believe they're still our friends. But although they worked their butts off, soon after we had my husband's family from Scotland visiting and all four of them ended up...helping us rake.
We got it done. Phew! And then the next year we didn't have the help probably because we didn't dare ask. It was back-breaking work. Then big hairy life issues came up. We left the leaves -- decided it was no big whoop -- we'd clean up in the spring instead. The frozen leaf carpet wasn't great fun and then life got in the way again and we left them too long and... bad idea. Come spring our lawn did not like being dressed for six months in a soggy brown parka. When we took up the leaves it was a sickly color. One typically thinks of green when you think sick but this was yellow white grass -- our grass was in a death spiral -- it looked like bile.
Desperate I googled my way to finding out you can mow leaves. That simple. If you knew that, congratulations, you are not an idiot. I was. Not only can you do it, it's better for your garden. According to Organic Gardening, mowing and mulching your leaves "returns valuable micronutrients to your lawn and gardens (especially when mixed with grass clippings) and feed the microorganisms and worms that keep your soil—and your grass—healthy."
So there you have it. Unlike my childhood home we don't use any pesticides or growth potions on our lawn and it looks great. It doesn't look perfect -- my husband mows and no army of strangers swoop in to pluck and run off with garden plunder. We break up soil on bare patches and seed it. But as you can see from the photo at right it does what a lawn should do. And now we do what we should do -- not spend our adult lives raking.
This post was posted in A Little (humble) Advice, Fall, Lawns, Seeds and was tagged with garden, seed, lawn, mulch, raking, fall, hunting, fall clean up, mowing, pesticides, lawn treatments, mulching blade, suburbia, autumn gardening