Something I thought I'd never talk about; lawn care in January. But here it is, an absolutely frigid January day and I'm thinking about lawns. Why? Because I had a client late last year who, due to circumstances beyond his control, didn't get his lawns raked in the fall. The day I came to him in December was the same day a good accumulation of snow was forecast. I starting clearing the leaves for him before the snow started, but couldn't get through everything before a low level blizzard came through and I found myself bagging more snow than leaves. So we left it, hoping a January thaw would allow us the opportunity to get more of the leaves from the lawns. And as the temperatures went above zero and much of the snow melted away earlier this week I returned to rake. In January. A first for me.
There's so much information out there about lawn care; fertilizing, seeding, watering, mowing, but I don't think there's enough emphasis on raking. It's important to rake and it's important to rake often in the fall before things freeze up. When leaves sit on grass and settle in during warm and wet weather, they mat together and form clumps that smother anything trying to live underneath. I learned this first hand years ago my then young son made a leaf fort on our front lawn. He piled leaves from our neighbours' trees and made a long fort along the front. I did rake, but not until November when the leaves from our Norway maple fell. Much to my dismay all of the area under where the fort had been had turned yellow. I hoped the grass would come back in the spring, but it didn't. The leaves had deprived that huge patch of lawn of everything it needed to stay alive.
When people show me dead patches in their lawns in the spring they usually assume some unseen bug or disease is to blame, but more often than not it's that they've left leaves on their lawn the previous fall, leaves that settled in, matted and killed the grass underneath.
So remember next fall, don't wait until all of the leaves on your trees have fallen before you rake. Rake them up, or better yet, mulch them with your lawn mower, and then rake them up and put them in your garden beds. The little bits will stay in the lawn to feed the soil and the bigger bits will insulate your garden beds and break down over the winter feeding the soil there.