The Best Mower Height for Mulching Leaves Explained
Everybody loves having big shade trees in their backyard garden. However, we may start regretting our choices when the fall comes, and all these beautifully colored leaves end up on the ground. A lot of people prefer to rake them and discard them somehow. But they can be used for a greater purpose – the leaves can also be mulched or picked up with a lawn mower, using them as compost for your lawn or trees. However, when I first tried to do this I wasn’t really sure what height setting I should use on my lawn mower. After all, some of the leaf piles can be very intimidating, and I wasn’t sure if my lawn mower can deal with them. So, what is the best mower height for mulching leaves? The best mower height for mulching leaves is 3 inches. However, the right height can vary from 2 to 4 inches, depending on the height of your grass. If you aren’t sure, using the highest setting on your mower is generally a good practice for mulching leaves. As you can see, these numbers can vary a little, and I will get into that in a bit as there are some caveats and details that are worth knowing. So if you are interested in learning more, read on.
How Does Mulching Work?
Let me start by giving you the basics you need to know, then we can continue expanding on top of it. So what exactly is mulching? There are two types of mulch; (1) organic and (2) non-organic. Organic mulch consists of a tiny layer of decaying organic matter, which is spread out on the ground. For example, this is something that you would see naturally occurring in forests where leaves and branches fall on the ground and create a thick layer on top of it. Non-organic mulch consists of materials that will not break down and decay with time. Things like gravel, rubber chips and black plastic can be considered non-organic.
What Is the Purpose of Mulch?
Mulching is an excellent garden practice that a great many people do. Its purpose is to provide the soil and plants with nutrient-rich bio-degradable material. The mulch will lower the evaporation rate and keeps the moisture in the soil, and it will keep it from eroding, compacting, and crusting. The mulch is frequently used to protect plants during the winter by balancing out the soil temperature. It fertilizes the soil and creates an environment where microorganisms and worms will thrive and grow. Ultimately this will improve the plants’ health as well.
Can You Use Leaves for Mulch?
If you allow the leaves on your lawn to really build up without taking care of them, they will end up suffocating it. This happens because the thick layer of leaves that builds up over time will prevent any light and air from getting through it and reaching the soil underneath. This is where mulching comes into play. Mulching consists of shredding down the leaves into smaller pieces. The leaves will then act as a natural compost, fertilizer, and soil builder that will provide your lawn and soil with beneficial nutrients. Mulching your leaves can be an easy and readily accessible way for almost everyone to have a beautiful vibrant looking lawn without having to use chemicals, and best of all, it doesn’t require much time. Another advantage of using your leaves as mulch is that you don’t have to spend time raking them and collecting them into big piles. This can be extremely time-consuming, while in comparison mulching your leaves with a lawn mower takes very little time. Weeds are the bane of any gardener. But did you know you can also prevent weeds from growing naturally? Studies showed that using leaf mulch reduces the number of dandelions that will grow the following year.
Can You Use a Lawn Mower for Mulching Leaves?
Also, there are lawn mowers that come with a specially designed high-lift mulching blade(s) that tend to do a better job at mulching leaves.
But even the regular lawn mowers can do the trick, and a lot of people use them. After all, mowing thick grass can be more demanding compared to shredding dried leaves.
- You can use the leaves as mulch on your lawn, in which case you can just go over them with the lawn mower without attaching the grass catcher. Keep in mind that it may not be recommended to use some mowers without a grass catcher. They may not even start. Make sure to double-check that in your user’s manual that came with your lawn mower. After you are ready, you may need to rake up the leaves in order to spread them out more evenly across the lawn.
- The other option is to use the mulch somewhere else, in which case you can leave the grass catcher on and pick up the leaves with the mower.
Also, before you start, make sure to have all the leaves on your lawn. This may be the only real time-consuming part of the work as you will need to rake or blow the leaves from the driveway and patios.
What is the Ideal Mower Height Setting for Mulching Leaves?
Mulching at the right height is crucial as it will reduce the stress on your lawn mower. And there is a little caveat here that I’d like to explain – we need to consider the height of our grass first.
Different types of grass have different high recommendations, so the right height will depend on what kind of grass you have. For example:
- Bermuda grass and Zoysiagrass are cut at 1 to 2 inches;
- Kentucky Bluegrass and Buffalograss are cut at 2 to 3 inches; and
- Tall Fescue is kept at about 2,5 to 3,5 inches.
Should you rake the leaves in your yard? Learn why mulching leaves is a better idea
Generally speaking, the height of your grass will be roughly between 1 to 3 inches.
Of course, this may not apply to your particular case if, for example, you haven’t mowed your lawn for a while. So take a quick look at how tall the grass is and start by adjusting your lawn mower accordingly. Usually, three inches or just using the highest setting possible should be good enough.
And if you want, you can also mow your lawn by lowering the height of your lawn mower after shredding the leaves.
How Do the Height Settings on Lawn Mowers Work?
Lawn mowers have various height settings.
However, these do not always represent the same height across the different models. And the numbers do not necessarily represent the height in inches, so a setting the height in position one doesn’t necessarily mean one inch.
Make sure to refer to your user’s manual for more information.
If there is not enough detailed information in the user’s guide, you can use a ruler to measure the height from the blade(s) to the ground manually.
Can a Lawn Mower Mulch Thick Leaf Piles?
Say you have your lawn mower set at the highest setting possible, but you are facing a mighty big pile of leaves. What do you need to do in this case? Can the mower do it?
If the leaves are really thick and in big piles, don’t worry. Just raise the lawn mower a little on its back wheels to get the leaves to pass under the blades. Make sure to keep the back of the lawn mower low.
Lawn mowers are super powerful, and even bigger piles of leaves have no chance of standing up against them.
How to Mulch Your Leaves with a Lawn Mower
Mulching leaves is not much different than what you would normally do when mowing your lawn.
Pass through the leaves one or two times and inspect the result. What you want to see is leaves, which are cut and shredded into very tiny dime-sized pieces.
You should end up with about a half of an inch of grass sticking out of the leaf mulch.
Generally speaking, there shouldn’t be more than an inch of leaf mulch. Make sure to rake it and spread it out as evenly as possible if it piles up.
You can also use the lawn mower with an attached grass catcher and go over the mulch to pick up some of it.
If you want to place the mulch around trees, use between 3 to 6 inches of mulch, and for flowers, you can use about 2 to 3 inches of leaf mulch.
I would recommend going once or twice over the same area and in a criss-cross pattern. That way, you will ensure good coverage and proper shredding of all of the leaves.
The last tip is to mulch only dry leaves. Wet leaves can:
And trying to work on wet ground may be dangerous, as there is an increased risk of slipping and falling.
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Have you ever pulled on the starter cord to get your mower started, but the rope snaps? Or perhaps it pulls all the way out and doesn’t rewind by itself. Either way, it’s clear the pull cord is.
One of the most common features of most gas-powered push mowers is the cord or rope that you use to get it started. But why do they have pull cords rather than some other starting mechanism? The.
Hi! I’m Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I’ve created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!
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How To Clean Up And Mulch Leaves Without A Lawn Mower
For the last few months, I’ve been exploring some different uses for leaves since my yard gets a nice blanket of them, especially in the fall. There are a lot of benefits to mulching leaves whether you spread them directly onto the lawn or create a leaf mold bin, leaves break down much faster when they are mulched. But what if you don’t have a lawnmower or your mower doesn’t have mulching blades? I’ve spent a lot of time looking into this and, as it turns out, you have some really great options.
The best solution for mulching leaves without a lawnmower is to use a stand-alone leaf mulcher. These are electric, lightweight products that will shred leaves and deposit them into a trash bag or box so that they can be added to compost or used for leaf mulch.
Let’s look at exactly how to collect those leaves and mulch them so that you can put them to good use.
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First Things First – Don’t Burn Your Leaves
When I was growing up, burning yard waste was the defacto method of cleaning up debris. There are a lot of reasons that we should not burn yard waste, but the point I want to make here is that those leaves have some really great uses. You can make leaf mold, add it to your compost heap, create bedding for a vermicompost bin, or just spread the mulched leaves out over your lawn to add more organic material to your soil. With so many uses, there is no reason to burn it.
With that out of the way, here are several products designed for mulching leaves without a lawnmower:
WORX WG430 13 Amp Foldable Bladeless Electric Leaf Mulcher
If you want an easy way to mulch leaves without a lawnmower, this electric leaf mulcher from Worx is an excellent solution. Easy to set up, no gasoline required, and it’s even designed to hold a large plastic bag underneath for the mulched leaves to fall into. Use compostable trash bags for a truly all-in-one solution.
We made 540 in 1.5 hours on this leaf clean up job
Leaf mold also has excellent water retention, being able to retain water up to 500% of its weight (source). This makes it an incredibly beneficial additive for soils that do not retain moisture.
You can absolutely collect and mulch leaves without a lawnmower and it’s a much better solution than burning them. Depending on your needs, there are a wide number of applications for mulched leaves. And if you are facing a yard blanketed with fallen leaves like me, why not take advantage of them?
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Paul has a two-acre yard on red clay soil in Southeast Texas. He knows exactly what the challenges are to nurturing a thriving yard in difficult soil.Paul takes a practical approach to yard improvement and enjoys putting best practices and “golden rules of lawn care” to the test.
Is it Better to Rake or Mulch Your Leaves?
Can you smell that crisp autumn air? As breezes of pumpkin spice fill our noses, the magic of fall transforms our green trees into colorful masterpieces. But after the colors fade, the leaves fall and you’re left with a mess of leaves on your lawn. What to do now?
Tradition tells us to rake our leaves, jump in the pile, then bag them up and get them out. Many homeowners prefer bagging grass and leaf clippings after mowing for a cleaner end result. However, there are just as many benefits to mulching these leaves into the lawn with a properly equipped mower as there are for mulching grass clippings rather than bagging them. When mowed properly, leaves and grass clippings add nutrients to the lawn, improve the soil, and save time, money and the environment. To help you get started, we’re answering your most common questions about mulching.
Will Mulching Cause Thatch Build-Up?
No, mulching grass clippings and leaves back into the lawn does not cause thatch build-up. Thatch is a naturally built-up layer of loose organic matter made up of grass stems and shoots that are slow to decompose, while grass clippings are succulent tissues that, along with fallen leaves, decompose quickly when mulched and return nutrients back to the lawn.
Pro Tip: Wait until the leaves are dry before mowing them. Wet leaves can be difficult to manage. Mow regularly through the fall to avoid an accumulation of leaves. A thick layer of leaves may have to be mowed several times in different directions to be properly mulched.
Does Mulching Nourish Your Lawn?
In short, yes, mulching nourishes your lawn. It is extremely valuable to your lawn care regimen and provides numerous nutrients to the soil. Mulching your grass clippings back into your lawn when you mow can return up to 25% of your lawn’s nutritional needs. Mulching leaves into your lawn can improve soil conditions and provides nutrients to the lawn.
In addition to nourishing your lawn, mulching grass clippings and leaves when you mow saves time, money and is better for the environment. Dealing with lawn clippings or raked up leaves can often be a painful and laborious process. Mowing, bagging and disposal takes a lot of time out of your day. Plus, returning clippings to the lawn saves valuable landfill space. Cutting that process in half and providing your lawn with added nutrients sounds like a win-win to us! Let us be your guide on how to become an expert mulcher.
How Do I Mulch My Lawn?
In just a few steps, you can save both time and money by learning how to correctly mulch leaves and grass clippings back into your lawn when you mow. All you will need to find success is a mulching mower or a mulching kit for your mower and a few simple steps.
- Mow. Most rotary style mowers provide the option to mulch rather than bag or side discharge clippings. If not, a mulching kit may be required. Setting your mower to the correct height whenever you mow your lawn is crucial. You should aim for a mower height that removes no more than one-third off the top of the grass.
- Refine. When mulching leaves, you may have to pass over an area of accumulated leaves more than once in different directions to grind the clippings and refine their size even further. This is best done when leaves are dry.
- Hydrate. Typically we experience an increase in rainfall in the fall which contributes to improved growing conditions and lawn recovery after stressful summer conditions. However, if dry conditions are experienced, lawns should be watered regularly to avoid drought stress. This moisture will also aid in the breakdown of leaves once they have been mulched into the lawn.
Mulching when you mow should not be limited to the fall to address fallen leaves. Mulching whenever you mow your lawn, rather than bagging grass clippings, returns nutrients to the lawn, saves you time and effort and reduces landfill waste. The key is to mow at the correct height for your grass type and never remove more than one third off the top of the grass blade.
When Should I Rake My Grass?
After an intense winter, your lawn is probably looking less than ideal. To get it back up to par, raking your grass is definitely something to consider. Raking with a leaf (fan) rake encourages healthy growth by removing dead grass and residual fall leaves, improving air circulation and addressing mold issues. Knowing the correct time to rake can ensure that you have a full, green lawn for the warmer months ahead. For the healthiest lawn, the best time to rake is once the lawn has dried out somewhat and you notice your lawn starting to turn green again. Raking too early when the lawn is still saturated in early spring may cause damage. This exact timeframe may vary by your location and the climate you are in.
Whether you’ve decided to mulch your grass clippings and leaves when you mow your lawn or take the old-school approach and rake and bag them, TruGreen’s certified specialists can provide guidance and services backed by our TruGreen Guarantee.
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What is a Mulching Lawn Mower and How Does It Work?
Are you perplexed by the many different lawn mowers on the market? Mulching lawn mowers are a popular option for homeowners today because they offer multiple ways to get rid of your grass clippings.
What is a mulching lawn mower?
A mulching mower is a machine where the blade and mowing deck are designed to chop the grass multiple times before the cut grass goes back into the lawn. Side discharge mowers direct the grass to the side, and using a bag attachment directs the grass clippings into the bag.
Among these three types of mowers, only the mulching mower leaves you with finely cut grass cuttings, which provide fertilizer and shade for the soil. You may hear this kind of mowing called “mulch mowing.”
How does a mulching mower work?
Mulching mowers aren’t different from other mowers in most ways. In all lawn mowers (push mowers, ride-on, etc.), you need lift so the grass stays vertical while the mower blade cuts.
Mulching mowers not only create a stream of air that directs the grass up into the mower blades, but once the grass is cut, the clippings hit the blade multiple times before they go back onto the lawn. This is in contrast to other mowers which direct the clippings out the side or into a bag.
This is by design, of course. Mulching blades use curved edges to generate this extra cutting action and generally have more surface area devoted to cutting.
Mulching blades are sometimes called “all purpose” or “3-in-1” blades because you can use them to mulch, bag, or side discharge. Standard blades are called 2-in-1 blades because you can use them to either bag or side discharge the grass.
Can I use my current mower to recycle my grass clippings?
Yes. Contact your local lawn mower retailer (or your mower manufacturer) to ask if you need a conversion kit. These mulching kits may include a plate (AKA mulching plug) to close your discharge opening (or bag opening) and a new blade. Or, you may only need a new blade.
Both push and ride-on mowers can recycle grass clippings back into the lawn. Close your discharge chute or remove the bag and voilà. However, a mulching mower blade does a better job because the pieces are smaller and will break down more quickly in the lawn.
How to use a mulching mower
In short, use it just as you would any other mower. Here are a few lawn care tips to make sure your mulching mowing sessions are a success:
- Don’t mow when it’s wet. The mower might not be able to cut the grass blades as finely due to the extra weight and tendency to clump. Also, the underside of your lawn mower will be covered in wet grass.
- Mow often. Follow the golden rule of mowing: Remove no more than one-third of the grass blade per mow.
- Mow at the correct height. Believe it or not, this simple advice makes a big difference in your lawn. Each grass type performs best when cut at a certain height. (There are many soil and grass scientists who devote lots of time and energy at grass test plots to figure this out.)
The seasons also can make a difference in your mowing height. Some advise that you should mow a half inch taller during the hottest part of the year and mow slightly shorter for the first and last cuts of the season. (Where it snows, it may be advisable to mow as low as possible on the last mow to prevent snow mold.)
Ask your local Cooperative Extension office for the best seasonal advice.
- Consider your lawn density. A dense lawn may put extra strain on your mower. When you’re buying a lawn mower, buy one that has sufficient power for your needs. Don’t skimp in this area — you’ll regret it.
- Maintain a sharp blade. A sharp mower blade is a must. A sharp mower blade gives you a clean cut instead of a torn one, which can invite disease into your lawn. Use a file, a hand grinder, a bench grinder, or a sharpening stone attachment on your cordless drill to sharpen the blade.
How often should you sharpen your mower blade? It depends on the type of grass you have, how often you mow, and the density of your lawn. Here’s an easy test: If you look at the tip of the grass blade and it looks torn instead of cleanly cut, it’s time. If you have a dense lawn with stiff-bladed grass like Zoysia, you may need to sharpen your blade as often as once per month.
- Keep the deck clean. Hose off the clippings underneath the deck at the end of each mowing session. A buildup of gunk on the underside of the deck may prevent the clippings from circulating as well as they should.
You may wonder, “So, what’s the big deal about whether I mulch grass or not?” Well, mulched clippings not only contribute to a healthy lawn but help out your local environment as well.
Cities are jumping on the bandwagon because, for one reason, grass clippings produce a lot of waste. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a half acre lawn can generate “260 bags of grass clippings” in a single year — that’s more than 3 tons!
As you can see, it’s also in their best interest to educate homeowners on the benefits of recycling their grass clippings back into the lawn and reduce the landfill waste in their city.
To sum it all up, mulching, sometimes called “grasscycling” has many benefits:
- Saves time (no more raking fall leaves)
- Saves money (free fertilizer, no garbage fees)
- Helps protect the environment (no grass clippings in streams or landfills)
- Reduces erosion (helps keep the soil in place)
Are there any times I should not mulch in my clippings?
Yes, there are instances when it’s best not to mulch your grass clippings back into the lawn.
—When you have a fungus : If you’re trying to recover from a fungus on your grass, don’t mulch in these lawn clippings. That would only spread the disease further across your lawn. —If you have weeds that are going to seed : It’s a good idea to bag in this instance and put the clippings in your yard waste bin. You don’t want to help your weeds redistribute their seeds for next season. —If you have too many leaves on the lawn: If you have over 50% leaf coverage, you may want to bag as you mow. Too much leaf litter and grass mulched into the lawn at one time can damage the grass. Afterward, add the mulched leaves/grass mix to the compost bin, or use the mix as winter protection for your flower beds.
Other benefits of using a mulching mower:
— No cumbersome bag to deal with on the lawn mower — No concerns about how to dispose of your grass clippings — Fertilize and mow at the same time — Avoid putting valuable nutrients and moisture into the landfill
Will the clippings contribute to the thatch in my lawn?
The short answer is no, cut grass clippings do not contribute to thatch in your lawn. Thatch is a layer of organic matter (living and dead) that accumulates between living, growing vegetation (grass) and the soil.
As long as the thatch is less than about a half inch, your lawn is fine. If it gets above that level, depending on your grass type, you may want to consider dethatching or aerating (which will inevitably remove some of the thatch). (Note: Aeration is when you pull plugs from the soil to help air, water, and nutrients circulate better throughout. This helps roots grow deeper and stronger, and you have a greener, healthier lawn as a result.)
If you’d enjoy having someone else mow and fertilize your lawn (with your grass clippings or with store-bought fertilizer), contact one of our local lawn care pros. They’ll get your lawn on the path to a greener, fuller future.