The season of drinking hot chocolate next to a crackling fireplace on a much-needed snow-day is quickly coming to an end. This abrupt seasonal shift gets many homeowners back-peddling to catch up to the needs of their lawn care, as it becomes less acceptable to sport dead grass and dry mulch under a blanket of leaves.
Don’t get left behind this year. Get a head start on cleaning up your lawn and set the pace for the entire neighborhood.
Start with leaf clean up. It’s a relatively simple thing to do, and it makes the biggest visual difference when driving down the street comparing lawns. Getting these leaves off your property quickly should be a foremost priority, as they can even shade your valuable grass from getting vital sunlight, resulting with an unhealthily brown or thin grass well into the Spring season.
There are several ways to go about your business, and each one has unique characteristics that allow for you to choose the best method for your yard and your personality.
Consider attaching a bagging system on your lawn mower. This allows an ease in planning around leaf pickup, as you can simply give your grass the cut it needs while taking care of the leaves as well: two birds. However, consider the additional time it can take to continuously dump the bags. Leaves will tend to clump and take more space in your bags than shredded grass will. Spending more money on larger systems allow for you to suck up more debris between dumps, which can save a lot of time depending on the size of your lawn. However, the price for these systems increases substantially the larger you decided to go. Your budget can determine everything, as bagging systems can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands.
If attaching a bagging system on your mower doesn’t speak to you like it speaks to mowing enthusiasts, blowers can offer a similar time reduction at a fraction of the cost. Just make sure to start your project after a few days of dry weather. Nothing puts a damper on a day of leaf blowing like damp leaves. Let the leaves get as dry as possible to allow the blower work at its fullest potential, saving you even more time. However, make sure you have somewhere to blow your leaves. You may not like your neighbor (and I’m sure you have your reasons) but make sure to have a designated spot to blow your leaves on your own property, Senator Rand Paul would agree.
Finally, if you an old fashion fella, there can actually be benefits for hand racking all those leaves yourself. Save money, and get a work-out on a beautiful spring day. Its’s never too early to start being active in preparation for that summer beach trip, and raking can be that easy first step to getting active. Rakes these days are fully equipped with ergonomic bends to keep from straining your back, foam cushion handles to keep from blistering, and even “clog-free” rakes to ensure your raking experience is nothing less than tolerable.
Getting your yard to meet your expectations of beautiful and healthy can be a daunting project this Spring. Starting with an easy leaf cleanup is the most logical first step, but the next step can come with some advantages or pitfalls: what do you do with all the leaves once you have it piled up (and of course after your kids have had their fill of jumping in).
Once you have all the leaves dumped, blown or raked into piles, your job is not quite over. Reconsider leaving your piles by the roadside, there are just too many valuable nutrients in the leaves which can be used to add organic substance to your soil.
Instead of wasting the free, natural fertilizer only to spend money on the store bought fertilizer filled with chemicals, use what your lawn has already provided you with to keep your yard lush and healthy for the entire season.
Making mulch with your dead leaves is a great method of improving the quality of your lawn, but it can be done many ways.
Shredding your pile of leaves, sprinkling with a little water, and adding some carbon-based minerals such as grass and pine straw can turn your useless pile of dead leaves into a nitrogen enriched fertilizer, which will give your grass the color and body that it needs while not limiting its exposure to sunlight.
To get the most nutritional value out of these leaves, some will let their leaf piles sit for about a year to create a leaf mold on the bottom layer of the pile. This leaf mold is so concentrated in nutrients that many see the benefit of waiting a full year to make it. Just always have a pile to use and a pile to start when that time of year comes around and you can have healthy grass year over year.
For those that don’t like to wait that long… most of us don’t; try speeding up the process to less than three months. By keeping your pile damp and churning it as frequently as you can, you can have this fertilizer gold before summer hits. Spray your pile with the hose every few days, as the leaf mold will form much quicker in a warm and moist environment, while letting the mold grow and expand faster as you alter where its concentrated.
To simplify things (for those who like to be efficient with their time) you can even mow your lawn several times with no bagging system right before rain. This will accurately shred the leaves to the fineness they need to be, while simultaneously evenly spreading its nutritional value around the lawn. No need to waste time or money with the bags and piles. However, it will not consist of any leaf mold, and therefore will not be as effective as keeping up with your piles.
Feel free to get creative though. Instead of using this high-quality mulch to improve the health of your lawn, consider using the leaf mold as a compost and start a garden. Eating freshly grown, not to mention organic, food grown from your own property can be not only a healthy lifestyle, but an entertaining conversation piece at your next dinner party. You can’t buy that kind of fresh ingredients, so why not share with your friends and family?
Whatever your preferences, refrain from burning your leaves. Not only to refrain from seeing such vital nutrients going up in smoke, but for safety concerns too. When leaves burn they can release chemicals such as Hydrocarbons or Carbon Monoxide into the air, or can easily spread and become a fire hazard. On average, every time the fire department is called it will cost the city (your home city) $1,300, which can even be billed to your insurance… even if they don’t put out a fire.
Even if you don’t have the time to invest in collecting your leaves, let CLC know if you would like them to store your pile so you can create your own mulch and use on your next project.