Archive for category Gardening and Flowers

Leaf raking 101

low light photography of dried maple leaf

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on

Let me just be upfront about this. I DON’T like leaf blowers.

They’re noisy. Nothing worse than trying to sleep in and the leaf blowers get going.

I used to have a large lawn and even bigger back yard and I really enjoyed raking leaves.

That said, I suppose leaf blowers have their place. I live in an apartment now and the maintenance staff does a great job with them.

But I miss raking leaves. It was good exercise. I saw my neighbors. And there was frolicking in leaf piles when kids were involved. Good times.

Some say mowing the leaves into the grass is the way to go. They say it is good for the grass. But I had huge amounts of leaves to contend with so that wouldn’t have worked for me.

If you have a bunch of leaves to rake, the recommended technique is to use a rake and a tarp. You will rake the leaves over the tarp. Try not to a twisting motion, protect your back. Plant your feet, center your weight and bend your knees slightly. Let your arms do the work instead of reaching over by bending your back.

You should take frequent breaks. Stop every 20 minutes to stretch your  back. You do not have to do it all in one day. If you’re not in good shape, hire someone reliable to do it for you. I would get references from your neighbors, if you can. Sometimes, strangers go around offering to rake leaves but I would not hire strangers to do work around my home, including snow removal.

But if you have a healthy back, why not make it a family activity? Buy as many good quality rakes as you have family members (or toy ones for the very little ones). Have some cold cider and pumpkin bread for brakes. That is how you take tasks and turn them into memories.

When your tarp is full, drag the tarp(s) full of leaves to make big piles on the street or curb (NOT where people have to park) so Fairfax County can come and vacuum them up on designated leaf-vacuuming days.

That’s fun to watch, by the way.

You can tell when they are coming to your neighborhood by signing up for email notification or looking out for the posted notices in your neighborhood. They come three times and if you miss the third time you have to bag your leaves and put them out for collection.

If you have to bag your leaves, I recommend this handy contraption to hang your bag on. It’s metal and it folds up, so it’s easier to store. Harbor Freight calls this a folding trash bag stand and sell it for $8. The Leaf Buddy (the one I got) is similar, maybe a little bit bigger and is available on Amazon. Using a bag stand makes the process much easier, and you can really squish the leaves down into the bag this way, which saves bags and lugging.



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Falling Leaves in Fairfax County


It’s fall! So, when are the leaves going to start turning and falling?

Because we had a long, hot and rainy summer — remember all those storms? — the leaves stayed greener a bit longer. But it won’t be long now…and the leaves will drop as trick-or-treaters swish through them at the end of October through early November.

Colors in our area should peak in the second and third week of October. The first leaves to fall will be the yellow poplars and black walnut trees. Their leaves turn golden yellow.

Beech leaves turn yellow to orange.

Dogwood leaves turn scarlet to purple. Red Maples also are scarlet. Japanese maples turn purple.

Oak leaves are gold to red to brown.


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September Flower Garden Tips

Do you have a flower garden or maybe a container garden? If so, you’ll want to check out these tips from your friends at Merrifield Garden Center. September is a good time to…

  • Take cuttings of your tender annuals, such as basil, begonia, coleus and geraniums. Root them in water or potting mix to grow indoors over the winter.
  • Replace summer annuals with asters, chrysanthemum or pansies.
  • After you plant fall flowers, apply weed preventer to the landscape beds to prevent chickweed, bittercress and other weeds from taking over.

You also might be interested in these free, upcoming gardening workshops.

Fall and Winter Container Gardens. Saturday, September 21, 10 am – 11:30 am. Merrifield Garden Center, Fair Oaks location.

The Pollinator-Friendly Garden. Saturday, September 28, 10 am – 11:30 am. Merrifield Garden Center, Fair Oaks location.

I think I’ll go to the first workshop. I spoke with a Merrifield gardener about planting pansies when you don’t have a yard. She told me that pansies like sun (my patio is sunny) and they would do well in a container. The important thing to remember is to keep the soil moist (if there has not been rain) because plants in containers can easily become too dry.

Pansies provide fall color well into the winter, she told me. After the first frost, they die back, but they come back for an encore in the spring, which lasts until about May.

I also asked about the mums in pots. A few times, I have bought a plastic pot of mums from Walmart and put them on my patio, but they never seemed to last very long, so I asked why. She said it was because mums actually do better when taken out of the pots they are sold in and planted in the ground.

That’s the nice thing about Merrifield Garden Center. There’s always someone around to ask advice.

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Tips for lawn care in September

Happy Friday! I figure many of you will be working in your yards this weekend, so I thought I would share these lawn care tips from your friends at Merrifield Garden Center.

September is a good time to…

  • Repair those unsightly bare patches in your lawn by overseeding. How to: aerate the ground, put down seed, and topdress with compost.
  • Fertilize newly seeded lawns with seed-starting lawn food.
  • Fertilize established lawns with with lawn food.
  • You will want to fertilize your lawns 2 to 3 times between September and November.
  • Prevent winter weeds from germinating. How to: apply a weed preventer to your lawn if you are not putting down seed.

To learn more, read “Turf Tips: Seeding and Fertilizing Your Lawn.” And check back in October when I share some tips about dealing with fall leaves.


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September Vegetable and Herb Garden Tips

If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable or herb garden, here are some suggestions for what to do in September from your friends at Merrifield Garden Center.

  • Plant fall crop vegetables: beets, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and radishes.
  • Plant garlic and onion now to harvest for next year. They will mature earlier and will be bigger and juicier than if you had waited until spring.
  • Collect herbs to freeze or dry. To dry herbs, place between paper towels and and microwave for about a minute.
  • Mark your calendar for the free, upcoming workshop, “Surprising Plants with Culinary Uses” Saturday, October 5, from 10:00 am to 11:30 am at the Merrifield location of Merrifield Garden Center.

Can I put in a special plug for beets? 🙂 I have loved beets ever since my grandmother pulled them out of her vegetable garden and made me some.

I have learned two new ways to eat beets this year. The tops of the beets, well washed (the tops are grimy so you really have to rinse them) and lightly sauteed, are just plain delicious. I put a little garlic and a tiny bit of soy sauce on mine. They are rich in nutrients but low in calories. Kale, move over. Beet greens, hello!

This weekend, I had lunch for the first time at a restaurant called “True Food.” I ordered the flatbread. Was that ever good. They layered a flat bread with pesto and almond ricotta, cooked, sliced red and yellow beets and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. It was a like eating a beet pizza!

Oh, and radishes! You can eat those greens, too, and they are tasty!

Did you know this trick for radishes? After you wash them, cut them up a little and pour salt all over them. The radishes will “sweat.” You can rinse off the excess salt if you want. This mellows them out a little bit.

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Spooky Gardens Seminar at Merrifield Garden Center

Saturday, October 15 · 10:00am – 11:30am


Gainesville (Inside our Greenhouse)

6895 Wellington Road
Gainesville, Virginia

Created By

More Info
Karen Rexrode, Plant Specialist, and Regina Lanctot,
Tropical Plant Specialist, Merrifield Garden CenterIf you love Halloween, this seminar is for you. Have a great time learning how to decorate your garden with black foliage, unique plants and unusual containers and terrariums. Be ready for accolades from family and friends.

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