Mulching Leaves Into The Lawn
When grass grows in good soil, containing lots of organic matter, the lawn is easier to care for and looks terrific. The easiest way to make sure the soil under the grass is good is to leave a layer of finely chopped leaves on the lawn every fall. A half and inch of finely chopped leaves, left on the lawn every year, will insure your turf will have a deep root system and will stay dense which prevents weeds from showing up. The leaves are pulled down into the soil by earthworms. By late spring the worms will have either consumed or moved all those leaves below the soil’s surface. The leaves become food for the microbes that populate a healthy soil.
The best way to leave a half inch layer of chopped leaves on the lawn is to use a “mulching” lawn mower. These mowers are designed to cut the grass blades and the leaves into small pieces before throwing them back on to the turf. One half inch of finely chopped leaves over 1000 square feet of lawn is equal to 33 bags of whole leaves. If you have the average lawn which is about 6000 square feet, you can leave the equivalent of over 150 bags of leaves right on your lawn, feeding the soil, and saving all that work raking and bagging.
Not Too Much Of A Good Thing - You can leave too many chopped leaves on your lawn in the fall. A layer up an inch thick will do good things and not hurt the living grass plants. Much more than that could smother some of the grass plants and kill them. Since your grass should be mowed at 2 inches or higher, a layer of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inche won’t even be visable. If you can easily see the chopped leaves, then make sure the layer is not too thick.
Leaves As Mulch Around The Yard
Many yardeners have more leaves than can be left in the lawn with the mulching mower. The strategy there is to simply collect the leaves with the bagging attachment on the mulching mower for the first month or so of leaf fall. That mixture of finely chopped leaves and grass clippings makes an outstanding mulch under any plant on your property. Spread the material 4 to 6 inches thick over garden beds, under shrubs and hedges, or under small trees. The leaves will settle down by at least half after a few rains, so your 6 inch layer of mulch will really be an ideal 3 inches after things settle down. Mulch should never be more than 4 inches after it has been settled by the rains. For more information about mulching see Mulching The Landscape.
Leaves In Compost Bin
If you have more leaves in the fall than can be mulched into the lawn or be used as mulch around plants, then the third option is to use them to make compost. Leaves will break down into compost or what is called “leaf mold” in two to three years if you just leave them in a pile in the back corner of the yard. To learn more about composting leaves seed “Making Simple Compost”.