It was late spring before I got around to the first lawn-mowing this year, and of course, I found out that the mower needed a new battery. It took a while to find one, so I borrowed a mower to finish the job. Now, with some delayed rains, the grass is taller and ready to be mowed again.
I’m not a particularly precise yard person. I like the flowers in the lawn (dandelion, violet, clover), and as long as it’s reasonably green and not stickery, I say, “Let it be.”
We have lots of trees and shrubs, so my watering schedule is primarily oriented around what those plants need to survive. As you might guess, I’m not a real fanatic about proper pruning. If a branch is too low or dying, I trim it off. I will occasionally trim back the rose bushes that line the side yard walk. I’ll also trim the adjacent Mock Orange and Snowball Bush, but I wait until after they finish flowering, even if passing beneath them does result in a shower of white petals. (“If you’re going to San Francisco…)
It turns out that my laziness and lack of perfection in yard care is actually a good thing. In a recent New York Times article, Margaret Renkl affirms that an untidy winter garden is best for nature. She notes,
“An unkempt garden offers more than just food for the birds. The late offspring of certain butterflies, like the black swallowtail, spend fall and winter sealed away in a chrysalis clinging to the dried stems in what’s left of a summer garden. Others overwinter as eggs or caterpillars buried deep in the leaf litter beneath their host plants.”
So, my sluggish inclinations are beneficial. I rake leaves off the grass in the fall, but usually let them decompose in the flower beds until summer when I move them into the compost pile (home to mice, worms and creepy crawlies, but also a buried buffet for the squirrels.) Renkl notes, “I don’t tuck in my flower beds anymore. Year-by-year, the little creatures that share this yard have been teaching me the value of an untidy garden.”
My back alley brush pile is usually cleaned out for mulching in early summer, but since I trim in the fall (if at all), I try to keep it over the winter. In the winter, I see lots of small birds flitting in and around the stacked brush. Renkl also says, “A good brush pile is a boon to ground-foraging birds, which eat insects from the decomposing wood, and to all manner of small animals hiding from predators or sheltering from the wind and snow.” It may also be why we’ve recently seen bunnies in the yard.
But I do get around to watering and mowing and raking in early summer, replenishing the compost pile in the process. And every other year or so I tip out the compost and add it to the raised vegetable garden beds, reinvesting the dead plants back into the compost.
I finally found a replacement battery for the lawn mower — it wasn’t easy! — and now the mower works. But it rained a little yesterday, and mowing a wet lawn leaves it raggedy, so maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow.
I probably should water, though, but the forecast calls for a chance of rain. Of course, if it rains, I probably shouldn’t mow.
Well, the lawn will still be there later this week. We’ll just see how it goes.
Que sera, sera.
Margaret Renkl, Let Your Winter Garden Go Wild, February 11, 2018, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/opinion/sunday/let-your-winter-garden-go-wild.html