We are fast approaching the time of year when the sole reason for my existence revolves around ridding the yard of leaves.

During this period of time I completely forget about mopping kitchen floors, vacuuming the house, dusting the furniture and mucking out nasty toilets. I do occasionally think of golf but even that thought is fleeting given my obsession with thick piles of leaves sitting on the lawn. I simply cannot tolerate that situation.

It is fall and no season is more aptly named.

Strangely enough it is my belief that this fixation on leaves dates back to the days when I coached football. Part of that job entailed keep the field looking pristine. It had to be manicured so that on Friday nights our community could gaze upon it and be proud. I now think of my yard as a football field and even though it does not come under the scrutiny of hundreds of fans I cannot rid myself of the need to keep it orderly.

That said I believe it is a good idea to teach all young men and women the value of keeping one’s yard pristine. I’d go so far as to say there should be courses at all levels of school to learn how to do this. I don’t care if you go to Athens Tech, the University of Georgia, or Harvard, the subject of leaves in one’s yard is going to come up sooner or later – and the upcoming generation needs to be prepared with coping strategies.

My daughter and son-in-law are dealing with this problem. They have a new house that currently has a lawn inundated with leaves and they have neither the tools, the experience nor the expertise to deal with it. Had a course on lawn care been offered at UGA they would not be in this situation.

Yard maintenance is, in my mind, a branch of study whereby one can spruce up the lawn and get “unbeleafable” results. I’d even go out on a limb and say that once you have learned the basics you will say to yourself, “What a “releaf” and you’ll be rooting for other poor saps to do the same.

But so much for pep talks.

Here are a few tips on how to get started on fall leaf maintenance. First of all you need the proper tools. Basic necessities are a lawn mower, a bagging unit and a hand-held blower. Do not waste money on rakes. The consistent use of a rake will discourage your efforts and besides rakes are primitive, inefficient implements that will make your back hurt like the dickens.

It is not enough to be outfitted properly. One must also realize the optimum times to work on this project. Do not, under any circumstances, perform leaf maintenance while the wind is blowing and gusting. There is a simple and sound reason for that. While you are removing leaves from the yard new leaves are taking their place. It is very disheartening to expend the effort to take on this project and not have a clean yard at its conclusion. You should be rewarded with at least two hours of time where you can enjoy a yard devoid of leaves.

Another timing issue involves wetness. Never work on leaf maintenance when the leaves are damp. The main reason for this is that when you run your mower and attempt to bag those wet leaves it will clog up your unit and you will spend extra hours unclogging it. Sheer waste of time.

A common error made by the novice is to wait until all the leaves have fallen and attempt to remove them in one fell swoop. The false notion here is that this is the most efficient use of time. I can assure you that strategy will not work. The bagger will stay clogged up and you’ll wind up with a rake in your hand and a sore back. You must remove leaves on a regularly scheduled basis – about every other day during peak season.

But do not despair. After doing it a few times and a little trial and error you’ll get the hang of it and might even consider starting your own lawn care business – in no time you’ll be raking it in. But don’t get overconfident because we haven’t even discussed leaves in gutters which is an entirely different set of circumstances.

That’s a separate course and one that includes the use of high ladders.

Unfortunately I flunked out on gutter cleaning which can be clearly noted by the tiny saplings growing from my roofline. The best advice I can give you there is to call someone who doesn’t mind dangling from gutters after their ladder slipped.

E-mail your lawn maintenance tips to dar8589@bellsouth.net

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