It’s time for my annual appeal for disorder, chaos, and Mother Nature’s right to winterize her home as she sees fit. Your contribution? Stay out of the way.
Leaf-raking must hearken back to the origins of the lawn. Today’s lawn evolved from the broad sheep pastures that surrounded English country estates: Just as every suburban American deserved a “castle” of her own, she also deserved a miniature field of grass. Lacking micro-sheep to maintain these micro-pastures, homeowners were vulnerable to misguidance on artificial perpetuation of this artificial landscape. Like raking leaves.
Full disclosure: I do rake some leaves. If too many gather in the hollows and wind shadows of my Freedom Lawn, they’ll create dull spots in my springtime tapestry.
But I don’t pick them up, and I sure as shootin’ don’t put them in a bag made of pulverized trees and haul them to the curb for a diesel-powered truck to collect. My carbon footprint cannot afford that lifestyle. I need to conserve all my discretionary carbon for transporting chocolate from the tropics.
But more importantly, those leaves are needed here in the yard. Curly and crisp, the leaves trap air when they stack up, delivering a substantial R-value. Frogs, native bees, voles, beetle-bugs, and a trillion other little critters have evolved a lifestyle that depends on locating a wind-stacked heap of those leaves, and crawling under it for the winter.
Carting your lawn’s leaves to the curb is like breaking into your neighbors’ house during a blizzard and stealing all their blankets.
So I rake, but all the beastie-blankets stay within the confines of the yard. Along the fences, under trees, on top of gardens, those leaves will spend the winter providing creature comfort to creatures.
In the spring, I used to pluck the flattened leaf-carpets from my flower beds. But this year I experimented with skipping even that step. For mature beds of native plants, it was exactly what the lawn doctor ordered: I didn’t have to thin the obedient plant or bee balm, because only the hardiest made it through the leaf mulch; and the mulch kept the soil damp. It was almost like Nature had planned it that way.