Have you giggled at your neighbor mowing leaves on the lawn instead of blowing them into piles for removal? Is your neighbor cutting corners on leaf removal or are they on to something? When fall rolls around and deciduous leaves to turn their beautiful fall color, the scenic nostalgia is typically short-lived because before you know it those leaves are falling in your yard by the truckload and reality sets in that its your task to do something with them.
Rather than raking them into huge piles, putting in bags and disposing of them, if you stay on top of the accumulation, you can use your mulching mower to chop them into little pieces and utilize them as nutrients for your lawn and save yourself time and energy!
Most mowers today come equipped with mulching blades to chop up clippings into small pieces that are then redistributed by the mower on the surface of your lawn which eliminates the need to bag grass clippings or fall leaves! In fact, a study at Michigan State University showed there were no meaningful differences in lawns where the leaves were removed vs. those where the leaves were mulched with respect to turf-grass appearance and accumulation of thatch. Plus, you are adding valuable organic matter back into the soil!
Below are some tips and tricks to successfully mulch your lawn by mowing leaves with your mower this fall season:
- Ensure your mower is equipped for mulching and that your mower blades are sharp.
- Be sure the fallen leaves are dry. Wet leaves will not chop up as much as they need to and can create more of a headache in the form of a clogged mower and messy lawn.
- Skip the raking! Leaves should be left in place. You can mulch up to 6” of dry leaves at any one time, though the less accumulation the few passes you will have to take to complete the mulching process. If there is a thick accumulation of leaves you may have to go over the area 3 or 4 times to adequately chop them up.
- Be certain the leaves are chopped up sufficiently. If you can see a consistent canopy of the green grass then you are in good shape. In my own yard, I’ve actually chopped up leaves much thicker than 6” but if you notice them covering the canopy of the turf you may have to rake and remove or spread them out more to adequately chop them up.
- If you are in heavily wooded area this may involve having to mow your lawn up to 2 times per week to stay ahead of them but it is quicker and easier than raking and putting into bags to remove.
- If you fall behind, and have too thick of an accumulation of leaves, they may have to be raked into piles but can still be used as valuable mulch in your flower beds or recycled at a nearby composting landfill facility. (Never dispose of leaves in the regular trash. Instead, inquire about your trash removal service’s ‘yard waste’ pick up schedule).
- Remember to fertilize properly in the fall. Fall is the most important time of the year to feed/fertilize your lawn. Fertilizer will help the microbes in the soil break down the mulched leaves more efficiently.
- Oak leaves fall much later than maple leaves and other species. If you have oak trees, you may be out mowing your lawn in the middle of January but you’ll still be recycling the nutrients back into the lawn, so its worth it!
Research has shown that mowing leaves can actually aid in an earlier spring green up and less winter annuals, crabgrass, and broadleaf weeds such as dandelions because the leaves act as a mulch essentially shading the soil from light reducing germinating weeds. In addition, mulching your leaves will save you a lot of time and is environmentally friendly. If you stay on top of it, you should be able to mulch the vast majority of your leaves, leaving behind very few to actually rake up and haul away… except for the huge pile you create for you and your kids to play in!
Are you interested in more advice for your lawn care or need an expert team to help you manage your demanding yard or commercial property? Contact the Pros at Professional Grounds, Inc. today!