This is the start of the gardening season in South Florida, where the forecasters have proclaimed the end of the rainy season and the temperatures and humidity have dropped to more humane levels. For me, it’s a chance to make my bed, a garden bed in a yard that is absolutely bedless.
When it comes to my lawn, I’m pretty basic, following one important rule. Be green. I’m not too fussy about what’s actually growing — but as long as it’s green, it has a place in the lawn.
When I see that in writing, it sounds as if I’m a bit of a colorist, embracing one color over all others. In actuality, though, the green weeds are welcome to bloom in any color they like. I just find that my color requirement for admittance into the lawn is one way to keep me from having to resort to herbicides and liquid fertilizers. I have no intention of having my little piece of suburbia become one of the stops on a national golf tournament.
There’s a scene in the film Roxanne, in which Steve Martin, playing a fire chief who is nasally challenged, steps outside, sniffs the air, and announces that there is a fire. That’s how it is with me when I decide on a good day to rake the leaves of autumn. Today was one such day.
When I walked outside, the air was crisp and still, the faintest hint of ice on the edges of the fallen leaves — a fine day to take my new rake out for a spin. After years of holding onto my ancient aluminum rake, the one with the head that always fell off, I purchased a new model from Home Depot.
You can keep those extra large plastic tined rakes. They seem to only rake the surface of the grass, never getting between the blades and down to the soil. No, for me, it’s all about the metal, and the one I chose had plenty of it. Black metallic tines. Sturdy. A green rubber grip on the end of the pole. It seemed to say, “Buy me, and I will rake your lawn like nobody’s business. We can make make magic together — just you and me and all those leaves.”
A few posts ago, I wrote about mowing the lawn and now that it’s Father’s Day, I’d like to revisit it.
My father is the one who taught me how to mow the lawn. It was an orange, gas-powered model, and my father taught me how to pull the cord, adjust the throttle, pour the gas, and the all-important mowing pattern. The idea was to mow the perimeter, and then to continue in smaller and smaller circles until I reached the middle of the yard. In reality, it was a rite of passage; a passing of the torch.
My mother and my father had different approaches to gardening. My mother planted flowers and filled pots and worked at making the yard and home look pretty and appealing. My father, on the other hand, was the gardener. He did the digging and turning of soil. He pruned the trees and shrubs, including the blue hydrangea in the backyard. This is still a sore point, because it never rebounded. It may be why I’m hesitant to cut any of my own hydrangeas. I know there are those that bloom on old wood, and those that bloom on new wood — but for me, there will be no hydrangea pruning, thank you very much.
My father organized and planted the family’s vegetable garden. It was filled with tomatoes, carrots, pole beans, bush beans and so much more. What my father didn’t realize is that he planted more than vegetables in that garden. It was the family garden, our garden, and each one of us participated in the planting and caring of our small home garden. We weeded and harvested and told Dad of any pests that were getting too comfortable in it. And although it was small, for us it was “the lower forty.”
I did some laundry today. What has that got to do with gardening? Well, aside from the fact that I like to do laundry almost as much as I like to garden, I was washing my grass-stained work clothes from this past weekend. On Saturday, I gave my lawn the first cut of the season. I still like to mow my own lawn, but every weekend, when I look around my neighborhood, I can’t help but think, “Am I the only one?”
When the landscapers arrive, my street looks like a neighborhood under siege. Trucks and trailers are everywhere. Engines rev, blowers whir, and hordes of men mow over every blade of grass. But not in my yard.