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Chores? Keep an eye on how injuries happen

By MARY COLLISTER
Published April 6, 2007


Joseph Chamberlain said, "You can't teach old dogs new tricks," but I have always hoped that isn't so. I know I'm not a dog, and I don't consider myself that old, and I do think it's important that we continue to learn our entire life. So I'm hopeful I have truly learned from a recent little accident.

I recently had this learning moment when I decided to trim off a few small oak tree branches while standing safely on the ground. So imagine my surprise when the branch came down and poked me in the eye. We think about wearing eye protection when we use power tools, but I was using a bypass lopper and didn't give it a thought. Luckily it just seemed to be a small scratch, and by the next day it felt fine. I now have a new rule for myself: If I'm pruning anything higher than chest level, I will wear eye protection.

Last weekend I spent a few hours working on small details in the yard. The most important was raking the leaves off the grass from around the very same oak tree that attacked my eye! Most of the leaves fall into a bed and they are left to rot, but as the tree has gotten bigger, many leaves now fall on the grass. The St. Augustine grass is looking a little thin in that area, so I gave it a good raking, placing most of the leaves further back in the bed. Once raked up I sprinkled a little granular starter fertilizer over the area and then watered it in. The runners have already begun to spread, so with a little TLC it should thicken up in no time.

With most of my chores up to date in the yard, I turned my attention to the lanai. This is a wonderful vantage point to enjoy my landscape so I thought the time was well-spent. I oiled all the wood furniture and vacuumed the cushions. All of the grilling paraphernalia was gathered and stocked in the grill.

I cleaned the outdoor rug, and scrubbed and hosed off the deck. The wrought-iron table and chairs were cleaned, the umbrella wiped down and everything returned to its place.

From the last three weeks of pruning I have two rather large piles of yard waste on the side of my house. The quantity is so vast that a trip to the landfill is in order. After the yard waste has been removed I will spend a few minutes raking the bark around to bring up some color and make sure the weeds are under control in that bed.

Before I go to the landfill I need to prune the yellow fronds and seed pods from the palm on that same side of the house. It has gotten so tall that we must stand on a ladder and then use an extendable pruner to reach what needs to be removed.

If you have been raking any of your mulch around you may have noticed that it's quite thick. After adding layer upon layer, your mulch can actually get too thick. I use chipped or shredded mulch, which does decompose a bit faster than the big chunks, but still takes more time to degrade than you might think.

I recommend that you add a lot of organic matter, but you can add too much. If it, including mulch, gets too piled up around the main stems of your plants, you may have trouble. It is best to keep mulch away from direct contact with plants.

The mulch also takes on that refreshed look if you rake it around a bit.

Since I am writing about mulch, I may as well give you my opinion on the "designer" mulches you now see. I don't like the mulch that is dyed red (or any other color); it seems so unnatural. I am also not a fan of the rubber mulch, as it doesn't biodegrade and the long-term impact on soil and plants is not known. I prefer mulch made from a natural renewable source such as eucalyptus.