🍂 What happens if you don't rake your leaves? 🍁
and some mid-week thoughts on dying
October brings me the same gift every year: The gift of pondering death and why it seems so abstract to me.
As children, death is most often introduced to us as the sequitur of violence. A blow to the head, a poison, a fall from a great height, drowning in the apartment’s public pool, a shooting spree, hiding under the kitchen sink and eating an entire 32oz jar of maraschino cherries and drinking the juice.
When death is what follows violence, there is a clear directive that (1) it is to be avoided, and (2) it can be avoided.
It is impossible to study gardens without thinking of death. In taking Dan Pearson’s Naturalist Design course this week, he walks his estates to show what 5 or 10 years has done. How many gardens can one design in their life, waiting 10 years for them to grow into their true soul? How do we go on pouring ourselves into the soil, barely learning the lessons they teach us, just in time to retire from the work?
Memento mori pieces, popular in the 16th & 17th centuries, reminded people to live well — because death was always at hand. Memento mori, remember you must die.
Kara Swisher, whom I love, keeps the app WeCroak on her phone. It drops 5 quotes a day about death into your notifications. The Bhutanese believe you must contemplate death five times a day to become and remain a happy person. She swears it has transformed her life.
As a child, I remember believing something Great and Big and Important would happen to me in my life one day. That I would reach a Moment of Something, and would Rest in Pride and Joy and Easiness and Importance. Religion accelerated this, believing that I would be Enlisted and Rewarded; that I was to be Admired For My Righteousness. When I was 16, I read Perelandra and got caught — for almost 20 years now — on the line, “Be comforted, small one, in your smallness.” It is a line that saved me from many things and has guided many choices.
I garden because it is where I feel small, and I have yet to feel the comfort that exists inside of smallness anywhere else.
I garden because it is where death becomes real to me; where it unhooks from its partnership with violence, and takes its place as a grandfather clock, directing me how to appreciate each small entity for the limited time it is with us.
SHOULD YOU RAKE YOUR LEAVES?
Every year, free fertilizer falls down from the sky and blankets the earth. And every year, we humans add “eliminate it!!!” to our overpacked to-do lists.
I’ve always believed that leaves kill grass, and that’s why it. must. be. raked.
After all, it is simply not an option to leave your leaves! We all have become so stressed by this maintenance item that our neighbors actually raked our front lawn last year one day when we were gone, because they had panicked that we had not done it yet and therefore must have been experiencing a personal crisis of some kind.
It wasn’t until a soil science course a few years ago that I realized the role that leaves play. They have the perfect Nitrogen-To-Carbon ratio (40:1) — better than straw, manure, coffee grounds, cardboard, sawdust, woodchips, etc — and are perfectly designed to return nutrients back to the same tree they fall from.
Regardless of what you do with your leaves, I have concluded that they are worth their weight in gold and should not be removed from your property, but either left in place or moved around to somewhere more needed.
(If you are struggling with your compost, add leaves.)
What to do with leaves:
If you only get a “single leaf dusting,” leave them! It’s the 3”+ layers of leaves that block light and air.
If you have many trees that are creating a heavy leaf layer, you can…
Shred them in place with your lawn mower. You can “mulch in” up to 6” worth of leaves and it will not hurt your grass!
Rake 75% of them to your nearby flower beds or garden beds and leave the rest.
Make a 3x3’ ish pile in a corner of your yard and it will break down into gorgeous compost.
Rake them into this leaf mulcher and use the shredded leaves as mulch in your garden beds over winter.
Stack them really thickly over an area of your lawn that you want to turn into a meadow, flower, or vegetable garden next year
If you’re one of the lucky ones with a bagged lawn mower, mow them into the bag, and add the shredded leaves into compost, garden beds, or give them away for free in your city’s Facebook group.
THINGS TO DO IN THE GARDEN THIS WEEK
Plant fall bulbs (you can do this thru end of Nov in Zone 7)
Put up row covers for winter
Dig up your dahlias & store them. Floret Farms has a great How To video on this.
Transplant peonies and hostas
Plant pansies and violas in cute lil pots around your house to help you fight seasonal depression this year
Go sit in it and enjoy it
Until next week,
This life is beautiful, but there is no such beauty in eternity; its glory is only because it ends.― Marc Hamer, Seed To Dust
I'm losing the precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news. - John Muir