McMullen: Yard waste? Just leaf it alone
Autumn is in full swing and we have the gigantic piles of leaves to prove it. Some people are anxiously waiting for Thanksgiving so that they can stuff their faces with turkey, and others are already coming down with Christmas fever, but there is one thing that is on the mind of almost every person in this town and in towns all over the country ó the red, brown, and yellow foliage that blankets their yards.
It pains me when I see someone waste an afternoon raking leaves and putting them in plastic bags. Thereís no need to waste your time, your trash bags or the leaves themselves. Yeah, thatís right: There are much better things to do with leaves than just making every effort to get rid of them. Theyíre more useful than you might think.
Now Iím no lawn expert and faithful readers will probably remember that grass and I have never gotten along too well. It would be just fine if an Arizona-style smooth rock garden surrounded my house. I donít have fond feelings for my lawn like so many ďweekend warriorsĒ do ó itís not a worthy adversary and itís certainly not like a child to me.
The leaves that many people see as waste to be disposed of contain useful nutrients that can actually be used to improve the health of your lawn and anything else you might be growing. Some say that if you must do something to your leaves, then mowing them will mulch them up nicely and your lawn will look even better when the lawn-growing seasons roll around again.
Some people are driven to do something to their lawn as often as possible, but I think the best answer to the annual leaf problem is to just let it go. Stop raking your yard, thereís no logical reason to continue doing it year after year. Sell your rake to a chump who still buys into the scam and save your black garbage bags for garbage.
I can imagine what some of you are thinking right now. ďBut if I donít rake the leaves my lawn will die! My home simply wonít be presentable! The foliage is beautiful on the trees but the leaves turn ugly the moment they hit my yard!Ē
A reasonably thick layer of leaves will indeed block some of the already small amount of autumn sunshine that your grass gets and thereís a chance that some of it could even turn yellow and die. And even if the grass survives pretty well, your lawn will still be a little discolored because the leaves will probably take a while to deteriorate if they arenít properly mulched.
But thatís really no reason to fret.
Here in Missouri we experience winter ó everyone knows that. Itís not a wet winter like in Florida, itís not the nearly non-existent Texas winter and itís not a harsh Minnesota winter. Itís a mid-state winter like the ones we see on television. And we have to face facts here: There will be a handful of times and possibly a large number of days this winter in which our lawns will be covered by snow. The grass will die many times over when the cold weather rolls in.
So, with that knowledge in mind, I propose a question to those of you who might be clinging to the outdated idea of raking a yard: If it is important to heroically save the life of the lawn during the autumn months, then why is it acceptable to allow it to die when the snow sets in?
If you rake your leaves then you should also make every effort to shovel off every bit of snow the second it falls. To protect your lawn from one natural attack and not the other is hypocrisy. If you really care about your grass, then you shouldnít just shovel the walk ó oh, no, you should shovel the whole lawn. You can single-handedly ensure that every single blade of grass lives for as long as possible. Cover your entire yard with a giant tarp at night if you must ó the simple onset of winter shouldnít mean an unavoidable and acceptable death for your lawn.
At my house, the leaves fall in our yard and we leave each one right where it lands. Sure, we donít have as many trees as some people have in their yard, but if we did the response would be the same. The lawn survives just fine. The notion of raking oneís leaves is a silly one that has been perpetuated by the companies that make rakes, leaf blowers and yes, even garbage bags. Itís a superstition, a modern-day old wivesí tale that is perpetuated because there are corporations built around it and millions of dollars at stake. Donít walk under ladders, always throw salt over your shoulder if youíve spilled some and be sure to rake your leaves at every opportunity.
So I say to all Sedalians and people all over the world: Donít break your back raking your leaves anymore simply because you think you should. Donít spend a Saturday being exhausted and accomplishing nothing. Leave the leaves as they lie and so your autumn and your life can be less stressful.
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