Posted by: trevormeers | October 17, 2011

Leaf It Alone

“Going natural” is one of the best time-saving philosophies available to modern middle-Americans. It’s the high-brow way of saying you no longer plan to wear makeup, comb your hair, wear deodorant or iron your supposedly wrinkle-free pleated Dockers. It’s slackerdom with the hipster cred of pursuing a simpler life.

Leaf angels: Just one of my new uses for fall leaves discovered after liberating my mind of raking stress.

The trick, of course, is not going too natural. Try eating local and organic, for example, and you’ll probably be signing up for a lot more work than a buddy hippie can tolerate since free-range chickens are significantly harder to find than chicken-like product turned into boot-shape McNuggets.

That said, I recently discovered one can’t-miss go-natural strategy. I’ve adopted a rake-free lifestyle. That’s right, I will henceforward allow leaves to return to the earth, right where they fall. I’ve cleared an entire Saturday that would’ve been spent sweating over 2 acres of yard, and I’ve retired my rake to the single job of carrying garter snakes out of the garage. Next spring, I won’t even have that little streak of resentment toward the budding of the trees, because I won’t be dreading the job of raking up all the leaves come autumn.

This no-rake policy, like any good go-natural concept, carries some controversy. Suburban Lawn Guy will tell you that you’re going to kill off your luxuriant lawn if you let a thick mat of leaves build up on the grass over the winter. And, SLG will add as a side note, your lawn looks embarrassingly sloppy with all that natural debris strewn about. Stop raking, and you’re only one step away from the neighbor who gives up mowing and declares his overgrown lot a “prairie restoration” that happens to have a Big Wheel hidden in the middle. After that, it’s a slippery slope to the composting toilet.

Of course, angering SLG is one of the primary reasons for taking a lawn natural in the first place. A decade ago, we moved into a somewhat snooty suburb straight from a 22-acre property with a budding alfalfa hay operation. My dad and I built the house at that place, and right after we moved in, mowing the lawn meant doing your best Dust Bowl farmer impression by racing across the hard-packed dirt with the blades twirling and clouds of dust shrouding your passage. For landscaping, I jammed about eight barberry bushes—the thorny bad boys of landscaping—into pits in the clay, wished them well on their growing journey and wandered off to find something more interesting to do.

But when we moved to the ‘burbs, I really did give the yard a decent effort. I watered in the morning rather than at night so the grass didn’t go moldy. I put down various remedies the fertilizer companies sell in bags with labels like “Turf Master Second Week of June: Just Apply Between Turf Master May and Turf Master Fourth of July!” I ran my department store mower around the yard once a week. One neighbor offered me his old edge trimmer for free, and I accepted, too embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know how to operate one. But, despite my sincere commitment, the yard still developed grubs, which scandalized the SLG next door more than the time mice moved into my grill. He was a used car salesman who spent four hours per week mowing, trimming and blowdrying—er, leaf blowing—his yard while sporting slicked-back hair, aviator shades and a red tank top. I’m pretty sure he installed an underground fence between our sideyards to keep my redneck grubs out of his space.

With all this green-thumb judgmentalism going on, I was thrilled to escape to the country, where a lawn full of grubs is just your way of giving back to the local raccoons. But even out in the sticks, I kept raking up enormous piles of leaves each fall. This was what conscientious homeowners did, after all, and I couldn’t imagine that an inch of wet leaves was good for grass.

But then on a drive to church a couple of weeks ago, my wife heard two soft-spoken ladies on the radio say that raking is completely unnecessary and actually counterproductive to your grass. Just run a mower over the leaves, then go use your newfound free time to carve a pumpkin or sit in the deer stand. (OK, the sensitive ladies didn’t say that last part.) Naturally, this sounded too good to be true, so I laughed off my wife’s advice, then quietly started searching the web for confirmation. Site after site popped up extolling the no-rake path. One writer said, “You need to decide if you want a yard or a lawn. Yards are natural. Lawns are that funny green color that chemicals produce.”

I was sold. The park down the road never raked leaves, yet had a decent-enough yard, and now I will, too. If the no-rake thing works out, it may open the door to other time-saving natural approaches for the lawn. Excuse me, the yard. I may, for example, have also stumbled upon a way to give up mowing forever. I’m not going to become Prairie Restoration Guy, but let’s just say I know of some goats that need a summer job.

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Responses

  1. KUDOS!!!!
    We moved to a farm and “lawn” work immediately fell from the list of possibilities having only 24 hours in a day….. If the yard is green, it gets mowed – if not – then I save a little gas and wear and tear on the mower until the next rain and growth spurt – be it grass or weeds…. The time saved on fussing is immense, not to mention $$$ on water, fertilizer, weed killer…etc.
    More power to you and spread the word!!!

  2. I feel so liberated. Our house in Greenville stands in amazing contrast to Lincoln regarding leaf cover. Although, Debbie’s plan was to use leaf raking as a character building lesson…oh the dilemma.


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