When To Mulch The Lawn
If you want to have a perfect lawn, you need healthy soil. You cannot achieve and maintain healthy soil without mulching the lawn at least once a year, for all the years you care for that lawn. Once a lousy soil is improved you can mulch once a year in the fall. In the beginning you might want to consider mulching in the fall with leaves and mulching in the spring with Canadian sphagnum peat moss, at least for two or three years.
Best Mulching Materials
Shredded Leaves - If you are lucky, you have trees on your property that produce your annual mulching material for your lawn; lots of leaves. You need to be able to chop up those leaves finely with a mulching mower, but if you have leaves, your lawn mulching task is very easy.
Any leaves except those of the Black Walnut tree are wonderful mulch. Some folks worry about Oak leaves because they are reputed to be quite acidic, which they are. Not a problem. They will be pulled down into the soil right along with other leaves by the earthworms.
Canadian peat moss is the partially decayed remains of sphagnum moss plants that have accumulated in water-soaked bogs of Canada over thousands of years. Fibrous, dark brown and finely textured, it has a huge capacity for absorbing water.
The very best mulch for a lawn is finely chopped leaves. Worms consider chopped leaves to be like ice cream and they are free. Mulching the lawn with chopped leaves is easy IF you have a source of leaves and a mulching power lawn mower.
1. If you mowed in all the leaves in most cases you will cover your grass with chopped leaves which is not a good idea. Remove most of the falling leaves from the lawn until leaf fall is almost over. Allow a single 1/2 inch layer of leaves to remain on the turf.
2. Lower the mower height to 2 inches, then mow over the leaves for the final lawn mowing of the season. The finely chopped leaf flakes will fall among the grass blades to the soil surface where they will gradually be pulled down by the earthworms and become incorporated into the soil keeping the soil microbe population large and happy.
Second Best Mulching Material
If you don't have access to leaves and a mulching mower, then your other option is to spread Canadian sphagnum peat moss over the lawn by hand. You can buy this type of peat moss in bales in any home center or garden center. It takes about two bales to mulch 1000 square feet.
Spreading the peat moss is not difficult:
1. With a wheelbarrow or garden cart, deposit small piles of peat moss on the grass every few yards.
2. Then go back and spread the piles evenly with a rake. You might use a regular garden rake to spread the piles roughly over the lawn, then switch to a flexible leaf rake to spread the materials as evenly as possible.
The goal is to end up with about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of peat moss spread over the lawn. You get this result simply by raking the peat moss as thinly with the grass rake as you can. You want to rake the material until you can't see it anymore because it is down by the base of the grass plants. When you do that you have about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch - this is not rocket science. Whatever you spread, the earthworms will pull down.
Optionall Mulching Materials
In some parts of the country there are some alternative materials that can be used to mulch the turf and feed the soil food web.
Composted municipal sludge is composted, dried, screened, and packaged by many city water departments for landscape use as a mulch. It is a rich, dark, coarsely textured organic material that nourishes and conditions lawn soil. Odor problems are minimal. It has more nutrients in it than peat moss, but fewer than manure.
Mushroom soil is the composted residue of the straw and manure used to grow mushrooms in commercial operations. The “spent” soil, still rich in organic matter, is usually mixed with some regular soil to increase its volume. The “aged” product is best for mulching if you can get it.
Materials You Should Not Use