What’s the best thing about fall? The leaves! What’s the worst? The leaves. Gardening editor Marie Hofer suggests asking yourself some questions when deciding when – and even if – to rake. First, do you care about your grass? “I wouldn’t suggest not raking if the grass is completely covered for a long time and you want to keep it healthy and vigorous. Leaves block light,” she says. “If you want a woodland setting beneath the trees and you don’t care whether you have grass, obviously don’t rake.” Second, what kind of trees do you have in your yard? “Some leaves such as silver maple and locust curl up and break down rapidly and you don’t have to worry about those as much. Other leaves like oak are more leathery and will stay around for a while.” Deciding whether to rake in phases or one time once all the leaves have fallen is up to you, but in general, removing the leaves from a lawn you wish to keep green is wise fall yard maintenance. Turn your hard work into rich fertilizer by reusing those leaves to help feed future plants by composting.
I actually enjoy raking. Some friends would say that’s because I’m a brand new homeowner, and I’ve had less than a year to experience the (potentially) back-breaking job of removing those once glorious leaves from the yard. But, alas, they do not know how much fun I had helping with outdoor fall chores as a child. Mostly I remember jumping in leaf piles. What a treat that was! My sister and I often had yard duties, but it didn’t seem like work because my parents made it fun. The responsibility of raking a large, tree-filled yard was more manageable because the whole family pitched in. The substantial job became an exciting outdoor event rather than a chore.
I must have channeled some of those childhood memories on Halloween this year. I arrived home from work just before dusk, eager to light the jack-o-lanterns and dish up the candy. My husband was working late, so it was up to me to prepare for our first trick-or-treaters as a married couple. As I pulled into the driveway I noticed the blanket of gold, orange, red and brown leaves covering the front yard. “How beautiful,” I thought. I was energized. Surely I had a few minutes before the little goblins began arriving.
In a flash I was raking, breathing the crisp air – thankful for the two majestic maples in the front yard. I raked the leaves toward the curb in one long line and, after a few minutes, looked down the row of leaves and noticed a few slight curves. It resembled a snake. As I worked, I accentuated the curves, making some sections fatter than others. This hungry snake needed a head, so I quickly gathered materials from the yard. Before I knew it, the leaf serpent had come to life. There were a lot more leaves in the yard than I first thought, so I raked up three more piles by the front door. Those became leaf monsters with their own facial expressions created by sticks, rocks and a few late- blooming marigolds. The whole process was therapeutic. I was even inspired to pull up the dead plants I had grieved over and integrated them as well – making my spontaneous yard sculpture more lifelike, which to my delight, amused trick-or-treaters young and old.
I’m looking forward to when I’ll need to rake the last leaves that cling to the trees in our yard, leaving behind green grass and barren trees – beautiful in their own right.
For more tips on maintaining your yard every season of the year, check out hgtv.com’s Gardening section.
Do you have any tips for tackling seasonal yard chores, for getting the entire family involved?
What are your favorite fall memories?