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unearthed when we dig

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Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm Done With Raking

Any day now, all the leaves will be down. And that’s where they’ll stay.

I’ve never loved raking, even as I found it contemplative and a ready source of compost fuel; each autumn, I dread the chore, one I dislike as much as any in the garden. Even more than weeding.

Over the years, I made my raking as efficient as possible, as I noted in this post from January. Over the years, I also have asked the question: Why do I rake?

I know why many people rake. As the venerable Farmers’ Almanac puts it, “Removing fallen leaves is vital  for the health of your lawn.”

Well, I do not have a lawn. Never have, never will. I do, however, grow mosses. And of course I have a garden. So, for decades, I have dutifully herded leaves, believing they detracted from the beauty of my spaces. Always reluctant, I was never obsessive  about when I got the raking done. Sometimes it was fall, other times it was spring. Periodically, I have skipped raking (I’ve gone as long as three years). During those times, I only swept leaves from paths and walks, relying on the wind to uncover the mosses. Eventually, I always gave in to the rake.

Here I go again: I quit again.

This time, I have more motivation than ever before. I increasingly want my garden to look and feel like a natural space. As much as any cultivated space can feel natural.



Arguably, any intervention – pruning, for example, or adding benches, ornaments, rugs for paths – prevents a space from being totally natural.  But letting the leaves lay does add a touch of nature. Too, allowing the leaves to decay where they fall adds nourishment to the soil, and will, I hope, smother a few weeds.

At the least, resting the rake will give me back a good chunk of time to enjoy the crunch and feel of walking in the wild, where only nature does the raking. 

24 comments:

  1. just blow the paths clear I mow yard with catcher..but i have no time for racking!!..haha

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  2. I have always liked fallen leaves and never thought them ugly or NEEDING to be raked. As a child I thought people raked for the fun of it, to create giant piles for us kids to jump in. Now that I am all grown up, I rake my moss paths, which is an easy chore with my giant, lightweight plastic rake. I rake the leaves into the natural areas, so no work of gathering or hauling. My husband rakes the lawn, for fun and exercise. Again, leaves go into the adjacent natural areas. There really is only one chore in the world that I despise and will do anything to avoid, and it is not garden related: dish washing!

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    1. Deborah, I like your moss system and understand your husband's raking for exercise. You ever ask him to make one of those big piles to dive into? I bet that would be fun, still.

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  3. All of my leaves are blown into flower beds or mulched and placed in the compost. I don't have a very large garden. It is easy to deal with all the leaves. One of my favorite poems by Adelaid Crapsey...

    November Night

    Listen...
    With faint dry sound
    Like steps of passing ghosts,
    The leaves, frost crisped, break from the trees
    And fall.

    Which made me think...

    Rattling old bones
    quietly, ghosts gather
    dried swirling leaves

    I just love this time of year.

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    Replies
    1. Ahhh, Lisa, Lisa, you made my day with that poem: It perfectly captures this morning, when the temperature was 26 degrees, the sky blue, the leaves crisp – like my old bones. Thank you.

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  4. Good for you, Lee! I wish I could take that approach to leaves but it's not possible. If for some reason you get the urge to herd some leaves though, come on over. I'll even supply the rake :).

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    Replies
    1. Hey, Sue, could you make it a bamboo rake? No, make it two: a big one – and then a small one for the tight spaces.

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  5. Your trees will thank you. When I took the RI Tree Steward course, they repeatedly told us how much trees benefit from the nutrients in the "duff" on the forest floor.
    Are you keeping an eye on that nor'easter?????

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    1. Absolutely, we can learn a lot from nature and save some time and work in the process.

      Got eyes on the nor'easter and a whole lot of fingers crossed. I know you do too, neighbor.

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  6. Can the leaves remain on top of the mosses without smothering them? I agree with your inclination to make the garden more natural looking, and I love the woodland crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot. Your perennials and shrubs will benefit from a leafy mulch left in place, but I hope the mosses can tolerate it too! One of the things I like most about your garden is the mossy "lawn".

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    Replies
    1. Good question, Laurrie. And, surprising, the mosses do keep on mossing, even under those almost-indestructible oak leaves. Also, when the matted leaves dry a bit, that mossy lawn you and I love gets cleaned by prevailing winds roaring in from the field.

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  7. I admire your spirit, Lee.

    I don't have many trees on my property or in my neighborhood for that matter, so there are relatively few leaves, certainly not enough to smother anything. I don't plan on doing any raking this year. To the extent that there are leaves on the lawn, I will think of it as natural decoration.

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    Replies
    1. . . . and I admire your attitude, Aaron. Your lawn will thank you. All best.

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  8. I totally agree with you, Lee. I was done with raking long ago. I think it all ended when my children were too old to want to jump in the leaf piles. :-)

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    1. That's funny, Beth. And, what a freeing life passage: no more jumping, no more raking. Cheers.

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  9. The garden will adapt to whatever you choose to do, then it is up to you to adapt (or not) to it. I love the ebb and flow, between what we want and what nature wants :)

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    1. And neither the garden nor the gardener always behaves predictably. And who would find predictability pleasing? Not me.

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  10. I don't understand why people rake. When we lived in far upstate NY (if you missed the exit to our town you had to go to the border and make a U-turn) I lived in a house that was built in 1895. All the trees in the neighborhood were massive and dropped tons of leaves. I would drag my mower to the neighbor's houses, mow their leaves, and then dump them into my garden beds. It was time consuming but I loved it and they were thrilled to have them off their grass. My leaves now lay where they fall, which is usually in the garden. Free fertilizer!

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    1. Tammy, it seems to come down to the perception of what is "acceptable" as grooming. Some of us have had to re-program ourselves to view fallen leaves as fine grooming, with the bonus of, yes, free fertilizer.

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  11. Hi, I'm Nadezda. I hate to rake leaves too. Because it's useless work, they fall and fall. But then I put the leaves over the flowers bed for wintering.
    Saint Petersburg
    http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hello, Nadezda. Nice to hear from you. Useless work, for sure. I believe using the leaves in the garden is much better than trying to keep them out of the garden.

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  12. I actually wish I had more leaves. There are few trees in my neighborhood, which meant little shade this past summer. But I agree with you about raking. Surely there are better ways to spend our time outside than raking!

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    1. You're right, Karen, without all these trees, my garden would be brutal in summer. Now, I'm looking forward to having my shade and no raking, too.

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