Magic Wand . . .
You are hereby granted permission to be a Lazy Gardener this fall, while you give Mother Nature some much needed assistance. Want to know why? Want to know how? Let’s start with why you should be a little messy.
Don’t feel compelled by your lawn service company or by neighborhood peer pressure to have a perfectly manicured yard this fall. Consider the following:
The EPA tells us that collected leaves and yard debris cause over 34 million tons of waste each year in the US. That is almost one-fifth of all solid waste in this country.
Collected yard waste also generates methane gas (a greenhouse gas) and contributes to water and soil pollution.
Using leaf blowers on flower beds takes off more than just the leaves. They blow away the top layer of precious top soil. Don’t believe me? Watch a lawn care company using leaf blowers and you’ll see it for yourself.
Now let’s observe Mother Nature’s fall routine:
Go for a walk in a forest and you’ll see leaves accumulating to form a natural much. Weeds are suppressed. Roots are protected.
Leaf litter breaks down and provides food for billions (yes, that’s with a “B”) of microorganisms that will feed plants next spring. Think of it as free fertilizer!
Leaves provide shelter for beneficial insects and animals like solitary bees, butterfly larvae, frogs, salamanders, and worms. Undisturbed ground means that when butterflies and moths are in their caterpillar stage, they become a crucial source of proteins for birds.
We Can Mimic Mother Nature
Fall is a busy time of year, so here are the Cliff Notes on how to help your garden AND the environment:
Run a mulching mower over a leaf covered lawn to chop leaves into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces will decompose over the winter and provide nutrition for your grass. Granted, you do not want to leave large quantities of leaves or overly large, flat leaves to smother your lawn. So mulch the leaves one time after leaves have partially fallen.
For the deluge of leaves that are sure to come down over the next few weeks, use the mower’s catcher and spread those chopped leaves over your perennial beds. Just don’t cover up the crowns of your plants or mulch too close to tree trunks.
Run collected leaves through a leaf shredder and spread over your edible flowerbeds or over planted garlic to insulate the soil and prevent any ground upheaval that occurs naturally during freeze/thaw cycles.
Help the birds this winter by leaving the stems and attached seed heads of perennials such as coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susans, Joe Pye Weed, sunflowers, goldenrod, native wildflowers and grasses. To our eyes, the seeds may appear too small, but birds will find them and consume these protein-packed snacks as a way to survive over the winter.
Collect blown down tree branches or collect fallen twigs and build an out-of-sight brush pile to shelter smaller birds from both the elements and predators.
“Wait a minute, Jan! You said I could be lazy?”
Well, I guess there is some work involved, but at least it’s a fall yard routine you can feel really good about!
Is it too Late to Plant Garlic?
If you hurry, it’s not too late to plant garlic if you do it before a hard freeze! Never done it before? Don’t worry - I’ve got you covered. In my blog post Garlic Planting Time is Here! you can download a complete, step-by-step guide on how to plant garlic that’s meant for beginners. It’s FREE!