I live in a neighborhood where stock is soaring in lawn-maintenance companies. Just this morning, I edged past a Tru-Green truck out of which was snaking a hose primed and ready to excite new growth on my neighbor’s expensive zoysia-sprigged lawn.
Meanwhile, my lawn is resting very nicely under a thick duvet of fallen leaves and pine straw. I will get around to raking when I’m sure the last needle has fallen. Anything else would be foolish duplication of labor.
Our lawn is the only one in a 3-block radius that hasn’t been raked bald, and I’m sure that passers-by think I’m a slacker.
But I have a plan, and the plan is this: When the leaves have decayed and returned some organic value back into the lawn, I’ll corral them into my mulch pile and they will be heaped onto my flower beds – along with grass cuttings -- to smother weeds.
Then I will stand back and watch the grass green up just as pretty as my neighbors’ yards that are tended by Chem-Lawn.
The only difference is, I will have mulch and they won’t. They will go to Home Depot and pay for bales of pine straw to place in perfect circles around their crepe myrtles, whereas I’ll be mulching with leaves and pine straw that – like good wine – matured and mellowed over winter while strewn on my lawn.
My mulch collection has a few other components. One is a bag of marbles from the Dollar Store. The crows fly down and pick through my mulch for the bright glass orbs, and in so doing they aerate the pile. Another component is newspaper. I receive a number of small weekly newspapers from various counties around Alabama. After I’ve read the social news, police blotter and racier aspects of the county budgets, the papers go into a neat stack. When the stack is about as high as a full-grown Labrador Retriever, I carry it out and carefully arrange the papers in layers where known summer weeds tend to grow. Then I rake leaves or pine straw over them. In no time flat, worms from two zip codes make their way to my garden.
The final semi-interesting component in my mulch comes to me compliments of my spouse, who finds it necessary to shred every single piece of mail in reach.
“Why are you shredding the Winn-Dixie ground beef ad?” I asked one day. “The identity thieves don’t care that we buy ground chuck at 30 cents off.”
“Oh ho,” he said, compulsively shredding a $20 oil change offer, “You don’t know what they know about you till it’s too late.”
“Yes, dear,” I said, extracting the pillow-sized shredded wad from the machine and heading to the mulch pile.
I mixed the paper into a nice wet collection of leaves and pine straw where it immediately began to stain a lovely light brown.
Across the street, a Lawn Doctor truck was pulling away. I do believe I saw the maintenance man eyeball my unraked lawn curiously, much in the way that the Mars explorer module looks at a space rock it hasn’t quite figured out.
“Keep driving, buster,” I thought. And just then, the very last leaf on the very last tree fell.