This Side Up

Mother Nature still knows how to take care of leaves


Surely my neighbors, even though they probably won’t say it, thought I had confused my seasons Sunday.

While they were getting out the Christmas decorations, doing their shopping and maybe even finishing decorating a tree, I got out the lawnmower.

No, while it has been a warm fall, the grass hasn’t gotten out of hand. In fact, since crab grass is one of the few things I’m good at growing, the lawn has pretty much gone into hibernation. A few blades of “real” grass poked up between what is generally a drab blanket.

I wasn’t looking to cut the grass but for an easy way to clear the yard of leaves. The mulching ability of the mower I’ve always found a great way to hasten the decomposition of leaves. For a time, I reasoned that mulching and just leaving everything was environmentally preferable to bagging and having the city cart them off to the compost station. Of course, this was far easier than raking, which justified my logic all the more. The problem was the quantity of leaves. Sections of the yard were transformed into a flaky mat that we tracked into the house and became a squishy mess as soon as it rained.

I transitioned my strategy to partial collection. Some of the mulched leaves went into bags and the rest was piled in the vegetable garden. By spring the leaves had pretty much decomposed and I had ready-made compost.

That’s a lot of work, especially the bags.

Landscapers have it down to a science. With blowers strapped on their backs, wearing ear protectors and with the precision of a choreographer, I’ve seen teams of two and three sweep through a yard. When they’re done they’ve produced a mountain of leaves at the curb. The next step is a giant vacuum that sucks everything into a truck. Where it goes from there I can only wonder.

I have an electric leaf blower, but it’s no match for what professional landscapers have. It’s good for cleaning the driveway, nothing like sweeping a lawn clean or clearing from around shrubs.

Such meticulously swept yards look naked, disrobed and sterile until spring when the process starts again. As neat as that is, it makes me uncomfortable. It speaks of our sense of order and perfection. Nature has taken care of herself pretty well without our help, so as I rolled out the mower, I questioned if I even need bother with the leaves this year. Surely, a perfectly cleaned lawn wasn’t on my list.

But why not straighten things up a bit?

I attached the bag to the mower and started the routine. I stopped every couple of rows to empty the bag in one of three yard waste barrels. It was easy going. The mulched leaves soon filled all the barrels, and being out of bags I stopped.

I surveyed my work, impressed by how neat it looked.

“Beautiful,” said Carol when she came out to see what I’d been doing.

I felt a tinge of satisfaction and then I caught myself. If I wasn’t careful, I’d be doing this again next weekend to the rest of the yard.

I wasn’t going to leave it naked for the winter? How could I do that?


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