Raking up the leaves coming off the deciduous trees is very likely one of the last garden chores you will have left to do at this time of year, unless you are like me and running behind schedule.
I’m still trying to get the last of my tender perennials tucked inside. Here are some tips to help make the job easier:
1. The right rake. Your rake should be suitable for your height. A tall person using a short-handled rake is asking for a backache at the end of the day.
Think about the ergonomic ones on the market now if you suffer from any disabilities. Plastic rakes are lighter but metal ones last longer – it is your decision.
Use the right rake for the right job. A large, wide rake for cleaning up the lawn is useless in the garden border where you would be stooped over to keep the shrubbery from getting entangled in the tines. There are narrow rakes, some with telescopic handles, for that delicate job.
2. Wear gloves. Do enough raking and you can wind up with blisters on your hands. These are not part of the garden exercise program.
3. Rake with the wind. It’s very frustrating if you don’t.
4. Mulch your borders. Using leaves as a mulch on your garden beds returns nutrients to the soil as well as provides protection to your plants against the onslaught of winter weather. Besides, directly raking the leaves onto the beds minimizes how far you have to move them. Just remember to pull the leaf mulch off the beds early enough in spring.
5. Make piles. If your beds are mulched and you still have leaves left over, rake them into numerous piles dotting the lawn rather than gathering them into one big pile, unless you have children. Then you want to build the biggest pile possible so they will not hurt themselves when children do what they so love to do – spread your hard work all over the yard again.
6. Wheelbarrow or tarp. A tarp is great as you can just rake the leaves directly onto it, gather up the four corners and slide it across the yard to the compost area. But sometimes, if runway space is tight, dragging a tarp from Point A to Point B is not healthy for some of the plants that may be trampled. If that is the case, wheelbarrow to the rescue.
Set the wheelbarrow on its nose in order to slide the tarp up and into it, although this method may call for an assistant. If none is readily available, putting the leaves straight into the wheelbarrow may be your best option.
7. Go easy on yourself. As with all jobs in the garden, work to your own ability. There is no sense in over-extending yourself so far that you can hardly move the next day, especially if the wind is working against you, spreading your leaves about the yard as fast as you are gathering them into piles. What is the point? Go inside, make a cup of tea and enjoy the golden colour of your lawn for another day.
8. Use the lawn mower. While this is definitely not environmentally friendly, unless you are using a push mower, your lawn mower does a good job of chopping up the leaves whilst doing the last mow of the season.
Chopped and mixed in with the nitrogen-rich grass clippings makes the leaves an awesome addition to the compost now. They add some warmth to keep the worms and other micro-organisms happy going into the colder months.
Putting a lid on our compost pile or covering it with a tarp will keep the heat in and stop the rain from leaching out the valuable nutrients.
Thank goodness the first frost date has been pushed back this year. I still have to get the flowering brugmansia indoors and judging by the jungle, it is going to be standing in for the evergreen Christmas tree this year.
Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.