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Garden Plot: Of leaves and lawns

Friday - 10/19/2012, 11:25am  ET

Fall leaves contain everything needed to have a great lawn and garden next year. (AP)

Mike McGrath,

New grass: Safe cutting and leaf removal

Paul in Arlington writes, "I over-seeded my lawn recently, got the seed down just in time, and have 2- to 3-inch sprouts all over my lawn. Now I'm wondering how to strike the delicate balance between not walking on the tender new shoots and mowing the sections of established grass that need it and raking the leaves that have started to fall on the lawn. Any suggestions?"

Yes, Paul. Delay the mowing as long as you possibly can, do not cut lower than 3 inches and make sure the grass and soil are as dry as possible when you mow. Having the mower blade sharpened first would be a great idea.

Whole leaves should never be allowed to smother any turf, but do not rake new grass. Either use that newly sharpened mower blade to mulch the leaves back into the lawn or suck the leaves up with a leaf blower that has a reverse setting and a collection bag.

Then, use those shredded leaves to make compost or mulch.

Fall leaves are the greatest gift your garden can receive

It's that time of year, ‘TOPers: The leaves come down from the trees and people fall into two camps: the ones who try and blow their leaves onto their neighbors' driveways in the middle of the night and the ones who sneak over to that neighbor's driveway to seize them, knowing that fall leaves contain everything they need to have a great lawn and garden next year.

To harness the inherent power of nature's greatest gift to gardeners, get a leaf blower with a reverse setting and use it to suck those leaves up into the bag.

The blower is the smartest way. You'll get the leaves up without bending over or endless raking and the impeller inside the leaf vac reduces their volume significantly.

Make compost from the shredded leaves by piling them up or mixing in lots of spent coffee grounds. But don't include any clippings from a chemically treated lawn.

They can also be saved for next season. Shredded leaf mulch prevents weeds, retains soil moisture, encourages earthworms and doesn't kill plants or stain homes and cars the way wood and bark mulches can.

Or give them to a gardener - we never have enough leaves.

Just please, whatever you do, don't burn them! I'm begging you, as are all the people with children, asthma and/or open windows in your neighborhood.

Rolling in the clover?

Barbara in South Stafford writes, "I just noticed that there is an abundance of clover growing on the shady side of my yard. Is there anything I can put down now to kill it?"

Yes, Barb. Lie on top of the clover for several weeks and it should disappear.

Sorry, but this constant barrage of "What can I use to kill {fill in the blank}?" is really getting old. Few problems in life require such a dramatic response, most herbicides are more adept at harming you than "weeds" and the only long-term answer to lawn weeds is to ignore the weeds and start caring for your grass correctly.

But clover isn't a threat or technically even a weed. It's a nitrogen-fixing plant that used to be included in most grass seed mixtures so that the grass would be fed naturally every time it was cut. And when it appears unwanted, it's a sure sign that the grass is overwatered and underfed.

So if your lawn hasn't had its essential fall feeding yet, do so soon. But please use corn gluten meal or a bagged organic lawn fertilizer. Grass growing in shade is especially vulnerable to the negative effects of harsh chemical fertilizers. And cut way back on any watering.

If grass is fed twice a year, in spring and fall, and allowed to dry out between waterings, clover will simply vanish.

Conjoined bulbs

Janice in Alexandria writes, "I just bought a bunch of daffodil bulbs. Most of them are 'two-fers,' with a side bulb attached at the root end. Should I break them apart when I plant them? Would I have been better off picking out the single bulbs in the box - the ones without the sidekicks?"

It all depends on the size of the bulbs, Jan.

Big, fat bulbs, alone or connected, are sure to be mature and ready to produce a flower.

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