Is it Good to Mulch Leaves Into Your Lawn? Fall Cleanup Tips!
As the fall months roll around, leaves will start to clutter up your lawn. This raises an interesting question. Should you rake them up? Or is it better to start mulching leaves into the lawn? Here is your guide to what to do with fallen leaves.
As the fall months roll around, leaves will start to clutter up your lawn. This raises an interesting question. Should you rake them up? Or is it better to start mulching leaves into the lawn? Here is your guide to what to do with fallen leaves.
What Happens If You Ignore Leaves?
One of the easiest solutions is not to take any action at all, letting the leaves stay on the lawn. It’s true that they will break down naturally, releasing nutrients into the soil. But this is a slow process. Sometimes if left whole, leaves will take up to a year to decompose.
The looming issue here is that the leaf cover will be blocking sunlight from getting to your lawn. This can smother the grass, and potentially kill it. Plus, the leaves may trap humidity, increasing the risk of a fungal infection.
Are Mulched Leaves Good for the Grass?
Ignoring the leaves isn’t often the right solution. Instead, you should try mulching the leaves into your lawn. There are a few benefits of taking this approach. First, the leaves will contain valuable nutrients, like nitrogen. Because of this, mulching leaves can create a type of natural fertilizer.
According to some independent studies, mulching can also protect your lawn from weeds. The mulched organic matter will fill up gaps between the grass where weeds could grow. This can have a dramatic effect. According to Michigan State University, the prevalence of weeds like crabgrass can be significantly reduced within three years of consistent mulching.
Plus, mulching leaves will save you a lot of time, compared to raking and bagging.
When to Avoid Mulching Leaves Into Your Lawn
While mulching leaves can have a lot of benefits, there are some times when this isn’t a good idea. First, as winter is approaching, it’s a good idea to avoid mulching leaves. This is the time when the grass is starting to store nutrients for the winter. Because of this, they need plenty of sunlight. Furthermore, according to the University of Minnesota, too much shade during the colder months increases the risk of snow mold. It might also increase the amount of insect damage that is occurring.
Many of these problems can be avoided by starting to mulch in the spring, as temperatures are starting to rise. You can continue throughout the fall. But you will need to stop it at the start of winter.
It’s also important to think about the amount of mulch you have. As we’ll discuss there is a limit to how many leaves you can mulch.
How to Mulch Leaves
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of when to mulch leaves. Now, let’s take a closer look at how this process works.
Thankfully, it’s fairly simple. All you need to do is wait for a thin layer of leaves to build up. It shouldn’t be more than an inch thick. Then, you can mow over the top. This will shred the leaves, turning them into mulch. If you prefer, you can use a specialized mulching mower. Or you can get mulching blades for your lawn mower.
Make sure that you are using the tallest height setting. You’ll need to repeat this procedure every time an inch of leaves has built up on your lawn.
While this is fairly simple, there are a few tips to keep in mind when doing this. First, you’ll need to avoid mowing wet leaves. These can clump together, causing damage to small areas of the lawn if left alone too long.
It’s also best to shred fallen leaves as finely as possible. This allows them to break down quickly. Because of this, you might need to make two passes with a mulching mower.
Can You Mulch Too Many Leaves Into Your Lawn?
There is a limit to the number of leaves you can mulch. Too many and you will form a thick layer of debris, stopping sunlight from reaching the roots. According to Kansas State University, you can mulch a maximum of six inches of leaves into your lawn. Of course it’s best to do it before it reaches that threshold.
Once you reach this limit, you can still use a mulching mower to break the leaves into small pieces. You can then use a rake to spread them across the lawn. Any excess can be raked into a pile and removed. Alternatively, you can make a second pass with the lawn mower, using the bagging attachment, to suck up the shredded leaves.
Which Leaves Make the Best Mulch
There are some species that will form the best mulch. Oak leaves are the best candidates for mulching. They are easy to break down with a mower. Cedar leaves are a good option, as they take a while to break down. This means that they can be used for mulch, trapping the moisture around your plants. Because of this, cedar leaves have been used as an alternative to hay.
The good news is that all types of chopped leaves will be suitable to use as mulch. They all contain high amounts of nutrients, to support plant growth.
Other Uses For Mulched Leaves
Mulched leaves aren’t just suitable for use on your lawn. They can be used in other parts of the garden. For example, you can mix them in with your compost. This creates an environment for microbes to thrive, breaking down the compost faster.
Mulching leaves isn’t just a way of saving time on lawn care. It can also be a good way of providing an organic form of fertilizer, adding nitrogen and other important nutrients to the soil. This supports healthy lawn growth. The biggest risk is that you will smother the grass. But as long as you have less than six inches of leaves, this shouldn’t be a problem. So, this spring and fall, try adding shredded leaves to your grass to keep your lawn healthy while you avoid raking.
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Don’t Rake: Mulch Leaves Into Your Lawn Instead!
It’s great to have big shade trees in your yard. But, come fall, you can start to resent them. Those big trees drop leaves, and that means extra work, hassle, and lost time. However, there’s good news. A study done at Michigan State University shows that you can forget about raking, blowing, and bagging leaves. Instead, just mulch them with your lawn mower and feed your lawn with a nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizer like Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food. Leaf mulching will save you work, improve your soil, and add nutrients. Here’s how to do it.
Chop Those Leaves With Your Mower
Take the grass catcher off your mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. You want to reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. You’ll know you’re done mowing leaves when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf bits settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up. With several passes of your mower, you can mulch up to 18 inches of leaf clutter.
Feed Your Lawn To Speed Up The Process
Soil microbes do a better job recycling carbon from leaves when they have nitrogen. Applying Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food after mulching your leaves will not only fertilize your lawn but also feed the microbes so they can break down the leaves faster. Your grass will be greener, and soil microbes will work harder, when you feed your lawn after leaf mulching.
See Great Results in the Spring
When spring arrives, you’ll notice something: The leaf litter you mulched up in the fall will have disappeared. Meanwhile, your rake will look dusty and neglected—but your grass will look greener than ever.
Leaf Mulching: A Better Use of Resources
When you rake up your leaves, it costs you. Your local taxes pay for trucks to sweep up your leaves or pick up your leaf bags, all of which often end up in landfills. If you burn leaves, you’re just sending up clouds of carbon into the atmosphere. Mulching leaves simply recycles a natural resource, giving you richer soil for free.
For help with your fall lawn care, contact Monnick Supply.
Getting Those Fall Leaves Off Your Lawn
It was a family affair. Dad would rake the leaves into big piles, the kids would jump into said piles, scattering the leaves, and Dad would rake them up again. Then we burned the whole mess. Yep, right out there on the lawn. I can remember how proud my father seemed of his dirty, dusty family and the project they worked on together.
And we weren’t the only ones! The entire neighbourhood would smell of burnt foliage for weeks at a time.
No Fires, New Rakes
Well, times have changed. In most towns, you can’t burn leaves anymore—it pollutes the air, annoys the neighbours and even constitutes a fire danger to fields, forests and homes. There are still a few people who choose to continue to do so, but it’s illegal in most municipalities. And why risk a fine for doing something we now know is environmentally unfriendly anyway?
Lawn rakes have changed as well. Nowadays they’re just as likely to be made of resin, plastic or aluminum as steel, and the old wood handle is now anything but. Find one that suits you (try a few in the store and use them in a raking movement to see how they feel). Plus, fewer and fewer people are using rakes at all—there are now so many other ways to clean up leaves.
Curb, Mulch or Compost?
Before deciding what to use to pick up your leaves, determine if you still intend to have them carted away.
The most popular option is still to bag fall leaves and put them on the curb for your municipality to handle. An increasing number of towns are composting fall leaves, but many still send them directly to the dump or the incinerator. This is information you’ll want to find out, because if your municipality does compost them, you’ll want to identify compostable leaves and garden refuse to distinguish it from plain trash. Check and see what your town recommends: it may be orange or transparent plastic bags or paper ones as opposed to dark plastic for waste. And recyclable wastes may have to be put out on special days.
Many gardeners, however, now use their fall leaves as mulch or material to feed their compost bin. Rather than overwhelm my compost pile with too many leaves in the fall, I always bag up a decent supply—4 or 5 trash bags full—to store away until next summer. That way I have some to add to my compost throughout the season. And nothing decomposes better than a mix of fresh green summer garden waste mixed with dry brown shredded fall leaves!
Getting Leaves Into a Bag
It isn’t easy getting leaves into a bag, especially a plastic one. Bags notoriously collapse in on themselves just as you arrive with an armful of leaves. Ideally, you’d have someone to hold the bag open for you.
There are also all sorts of ingenious devices designed to hold bags open, but they never seem to work as advertised. I prefer the old-fashioned trash can method: line a trash can with a bag, fold its top back over the rim and it will stay open.
The next step is picking up the leaves. You can grab armfuls of them, dumping them in the bag, but it’s impossible not to miss a few (or a lot). Then you’ll have to rake them up again. Plus, that’s a lot of bending, which isn’t always good for the back.
You’ll find various leaf grabbers on the market. Usually they look like a pair of paddles with teeth you can clamp together, though I’ve also seen rakes that fold in two and various other forms. I find them all a bit awkward and not too efficient. In the end, you often still find yourself do a lot of bending.
I prefer the sheet method for bagging whole leaves. Lay a fairly heavy plastic sheet (or a drop cloth or a tarp) on the ground (6 × 8 feet/1.8 m × 2.4 m is a practical size) and rake the leaves onto it. A blower is also efficient for this task. Grab three of the corners, lift and dump the leaves into the open bag via the remaining corner, and voila! Simple!
There are also a variety of lawn sweepers available. The push-types use a rotating brush to move leaves into a hopper as you push it over the lawn. Other models can be pulled behind a lawn tractor. Ideally, the hopper would be easy to detach and light enough that you could pour the leaves into a bag with little effort.
I find this option better suited to professional lawn companies or landowners with large acreages rather than the typical home gardener. This equipment can take up a lot of space in the garage.
Why Shred Leaves?
If you intend to use your leaves as mulch or compost, you need to shred them. There are several reasons why. Here are the main ones.
- Shredded leaves have smaller air spaces and so take up less space. Often half as much as whole leaves. That makes them easier to store.
- Chopped leaves make better mulch, as they don’t mat down and create an impervious layer that doesn’t “breathe” well or let water flow through.
- Shredded leaves have more edges and edges offer beneficial microbes more space to work from.
- Nor do chopped leaves blow away readily. After an initial watering, they tend to remain where you put them.
- Shredded leaves compost more rapidly and few minerals are lost.
- There is greater air circulation and therefore less risk of slow-working anaerobic organisms setting up shop. Aerobic ones are preferable for home composting.
- Shredding leaves kills many of the unwanted animals, weeds, diseases and seeds that might still inhabit the fallen leaves.
No Need to Move Thin Leaves
There is often no need to move leaves on a lawn. If they fall thinly enough that you can still see the green grass, just run the mulching mower over them and let them lay where they fall. That will reduce them to tiny pieces that fall to the ground between grass plants, so your lawn won’t be starved for sun. Then they decompose there, enriching the soil … and reducing your need to fertilize! And if Ma Nature offers you free fertilizer, I say take her up on the offer!
Of course, you’ve certainly seen lawns so thickly covered in fall leaves that not a blade of grass is visible and that may be the case in your yard. It certainly is in mine! If so, yes, of course, you should apply the methods explained below, under Moving and Shredding. Because your lawn is still growing late in the fall and the turf plants need their sun! Remove the overly thick layer of leaves the first time. If a thin layer of leaves is redeposited on the lawn, simply shred them the second time, leaving them to decompose on the spot.
Moving and Shredding
There are several ways of shredding fall leaves.
Leaf blower/vacs in vacuum mode will shred leaves. They suck up the leaves, chop them up and deposit them in the attached bag. You can then empty it when it fills. There are electric, cordless and gas-powered models. Most are quite noisy, so be sure to wear earplugs … and for your neighbours’ sake, not to use them early in the morning.
I use them mostly as a finishing tool, to remove leaves from flowerbeds, decks, paths and tight spaces that my preferred leaf picker-upper, the lawn mower, can’t reach.
Yes, the rotary lawn mower is my personal favourite for picking up leaves. To start with, you probably already have one, so there is no equipment to buy. There are mulching mowers designed to chop leaves, but you can add a mulching blade to any rotary mower, and mulching blades work fine when you’re mowing grass, too.
The easiest mower to use for leaf collection is the bagging type. Just detach the bag when it’s full and dump the leaves where you need them, be it in the compost bin, in plastic storage bags or in your flowerbeds as mulch.
My old lawn mower is a side-discharge model with no bagging attachment. I find I still get good results just by directing the blowing leaves into the surrounding flowerbeds as mulch.
There are hand push, riding and tractor-pulled mowers in electric, cordless or gas-powered models. They all work fine, so take your pick!
Unfortunately reel mowers (typically push mowers without a motor) won’t chop up leaves. Since these types of mowers are usually used on smaller lawns, you might want to add a blower/vac to your repertoire for leaf pick-up. Blower/vacs take up little storage space and are ideal for small surfaces.
Snowblower to the Rescue?
I have a neighbour who uses a snowblower to chop leaves. He runs over the lawn with it and uses the adjustable chute to send the leaves into their flowerbeds as mulch. He’s been doing this for years with no problem. I’d personally be a bit worried that if the machine broke down. The warranty might not be valid, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. I suspect if ever I bought a snowblower, I’d probably end up trying mine for leaf pick-up as well.
So have fun experimenting with some of these options. Just make sure you explain to your spouse that you’re experimenting with your leaf pick-up techniques on leaves before they call in the men with the white coats!
Derived from an article appearing in the magazine Gardens Central September 2013.
How to Mulch Leaves With a Mower?
Before moving on to “how to mulch leaves with a mower” there a certain queries and confusion about mulching leaves which many time people asks and do not get a promising solution. Because when each season autumn comes, leaves fall on the ground, and you have piles of leaves to remove from the ground.
Here people get into confusion about what is better:
Mowing leaves instead of raking
Raking leaves instead of mulching
Actually, the best idea is to mow in other words turn leaves into mulch instead of raking. Because doing so you aren’t only providing nutrients to the soil but also saving laborious work and time for yourself which you would be spending raking up leaves and removing them from the ground.
In short, when it comes to mulching leaves vs removing them always choose mulching as it works best for your lawn.
- How to Mulch With a Lawn Mower
- Material Required
- Mixing Whole Leaves Into Compost
- Mulching Leaves With a Leaf Shredder
- Mulching Leaves With a String Trimmer
- Mulching Using Plastic Bags
- Breaking Leaves by Driving on Them
How to Mulch With a Lawn Mower – Mulching Leaves With Lawn Mower
Getting on “How to mulch leaves with a lawn mower” there is some simple equipment you need to mow your lawn and start using dry leaves as much. Also, keep in mind that the below method is universal for all mowers so when it comes to questions like
how to mulch leaves with a riding mower?
how to mulch leaves with zero turn mower?
You can use the method given below to mulch leaves:
Following steps, you can take for mulching leaves with a lawn mower:
Choose a Suitable Mower for Your Lawn
Choosing the best lawn mower for leaves does affect the final mulching results.
And using a mulching mower is probably the best way to mulch leaves.
There are certain types of mowers that are designed to mulch leaves. It can be riding, zero turns, walk-behind, or push mower in your yard which belongs to the various brands like TORO, JOHN DEERE, Husqvarna, GRAVELY, CUB CADET, etc.
Actually, if a mower is a rotary action lawnmower, then it would definitely mulch leaves well. Because a rotary action mower will suck up leaves fast and cut them into small pieces.
Once you have all the features mentioned above in your mower, the mulching process would become damn easy. So, always choose a good mower that is efficient enough to mulch leaves into the lawn.
Choose a Perfect Mulching Blade and Install
The next step is to install the mulching blades in your mower. If your mower is already a mulching type with a mulching blade installed in it, you can skip this step.
Well, if your mower has regular blades installed in them it’s better to replace them with some compatible mulching blades.
There are different options available to choose from the mulching blades in accordance with your mower.
Some good brands to choose from are Maxpower, Oregon (Gator), 8TEN, and Rotary store.
Among those brands, Gator by Oregon is the best one as you will always love Gator blades mulching leaves in your lawn once you know their performance.
- Curvy angle
- Serrated teeth
- Sharp cutting edge
- Curved flaps
- Compatible mounting hole
- Easy fitment
Right after choosing the blade, you can install it on your mower. Installation is quite easy as you just have to remove the old blades from the deck of the mower using a wrench and box and mount the new one in the correct way.
Set Optimal Mower Height for Mulching Leaves
Set the optimal mower height for mulching leaves which is usually kept at 3 inches.
Prepare Your Lawn
Mark hard surfaces and plan not to mow on them. Spread leaves with a rake. Use a sweeper for extra leaves. Keep in mind that you don’t should maintain leaf mulch thickness at 3-4 inches. Though, you can go as fas as 6 inches recommended by Turfgass specialists at Michigan State University.
While mowing ensures that your mower is mulching well with one or two passes. If it is not working well you check its blade which really affects mowing performance.
The best way to mulch leaves with the mower is to set mower height properly, keep optimum leaves thickness on the ground, and mow in rows covering all the area.
A good mulch of leaves is produced when the leaves after mowing have half-inch in diameter size.
After mowing you can leave the leaf mulch in between the blades of grass so they can rest and decompose. After decomposition, they will surely act as fertilizer and be benefical to your lawn.
WORX WG170.2 20V Power Share GT Revolution 12 Cordless String Trimmer
- Act as mini mower to mulch leaves
- Fast trimmer that can make mulch fast
- Cordless and electric
- Safest tool to use nowadays for trimming
Mulching Using Plastic Bags
When it comes to “how to make leaf mulch in plastic bags” the simple answer is making leaf mould in plastic bags.
Leaf mold is basically a type of compost that is made by letting leaves in a plastic bag over a time period of 1-1.5 years. Leaf mold is called so because it is made of leaves only. Also, it differs from other organic matter composts. It is acidic and dry with low nitrogen content in it. Leaf mold is beneficial to your lawn in terms of its potential to change the soil structure. It enables soil to retain more moisture and beneficial microorganisms which will eventually make your lawn look good.
Coming back to our discussion, how to make leaf mulch in plastic bags?
So, the procedure is simple you just need to make a leaf mold and spread it over your lawn as mulch. Keep in mind, leaf mold is called leaf mulch when you spread it over your lawn soil.
- Place a construction grade or polythene bag in a large bucket or you can also use a garbage can for it.
- Now collect the leaves and place them in the bucket. If the leaves are large it is a good practice to break them first with some rod and pressure by hand.
- After you have placed leaves in the bucket. Compress the leaves to remove any air s in the bag.
- Now dig a hole where you will be placing the bag. The hole should be somewhere where rain does not fall much or nobody is walking there.
- Now take the plastic bag out of the bucket and make a hole under it with a screwdriver for drainage and microorganisms entry.
- Now place the plastic bag in the hole.
- Cover the hole with dirt and bury the bag.
- Leave it for 1 year or so until you get a brown leaf matter ready to spear over the lawn soil as mulch.
Breaking Leaves by Driving on Them
Your car is an excellent resource you can use to mulch the leaves. This method is useful only when the leaves are dried. You just need to pile the leaves up with a leaf blower or rake. And make a track of it on the driveway so you can drive on them. The weight of the car will crush the leaves which you can collect and spread on your lawn.
Keep in mind that you will need 5-6 passes of the car over the same leaf belt in order to get a good mulch. Also, look in the leaf trash so that there are no sharp sticks or plant material that can damage your wheels.
Benefits of Mulching Leaves
Making mulch out of leaves brings different pros and cons of leaf mulch but mostly there are benefits. When you mulch leaves into your lawn it gives you tremendous benefits which are listed below:
- Mulching leaves make your lawn lush green by providing essential nutrients in the soil.
- Also, mulching leaves promote beneficial insects and microorganism growth in the soil.
- Saves time and effort to rake up leaves and pill them.
- Saves money as you don’t need any plastic bags or garbage carrying facilities in your city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is mowing leaves bad for mower?
No, mulching leaves are not bad for a mower if you install the mulching blades in your mower. Mulching blades chop the leaves into small pieces, this way leave doesn’t stick under the deck of the mower which means no more mower bogging.
Can I mulch leaves with my lawn mower?
Yes, to mulch leaves with a lawnmower, you would need a mulching mower or install a mulching blade in your mower. It is by far the easiest way to mulch leaves for your lawn.
Can you mulch wet leaves?
Mulching wet leaves is not a good idea as it can mower bogging (sticking of leaves underneath the deck of the mower).
Should you mulch leaves into lawn?
Yes, you should mulch leaves into your lawn as it dried leaves as mulch adds nutrients to your lawn side by side save your time and efforts to rake leaves in your lawn.
Can I mulch leaves into grass?
Yes, mulching leaves into grass is a good idea as it adds nutrients into the soil in form of decomposed leaves. The best practice to mulch leaves into grass is that you should mow in leaves in a way that the leaves fall in between the grass blades. I mean it should not cover the grass which can kill it.
Can you mulch leaves with a lawn mower?
Yes, mulching leaves with a lawnmower is now possible with the use of mulching blades. You can install mulching blades on your mower and mulch leaves in no time.
Do mulching blades work on leaves?Yes, there are mulching blades available that you can use to mulch leaves. The best mulching blades that work on leaves are Gator mulching blades.
How to make mulch from dead leaves?
To make mulch from dead leaves, you can chop the leaves into small pieces and let them decompose which will produce a good mulch.
Is it better to rake leaves or mulch them?
According to experts’s opinion, raking leaves is optional. It is way much better to mulch leaves rather than raking as raking takes time and laborious effort to maintain the aesthetic look of your lawn. Where mulching leaves saves it all and fertilizes your lawn, so it looks lavish green.
Is it better to bag or mulch leaves?
Mulching leaves is always a good idea as mulching leaves create natural fertilizer that you feed to your lawn. If you are bagging the leaves you are actually removing the natural fertilizer resource from your lawn.
Can mulching leaves kill grass?
NO, mulching leaves give beneficial nutrients to the grass instead of killing the grass. However, if you put a thick layer of leaves on grass then it might kill the grass.
Can you mulch too many leaves?
NO, mulching too many leaves can kill the grass of your lawn. If you have too many leaves, you can spread them on your lawn in a way that the layer of leaves is 2-3-inch-thick maximum. This way leaves will give fertilizing benefits to your lawn after mulching.
After doing my master’s in agriculture, I went on with this field for more than 15 years because I love working in green. I have experienced using modern machinery and techniques that can help farmers and landscapers to achieve something great. My goal will be to deliver you the best reviews and information to make the right decision.
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