If you have trees on your property, chances are you’ll be dealing with leaf drop every year. With this comes a decision homeowners and property managers must make regarding their lawn and landscape areas every autumn.
Top Benefits of Mulching Leaves
Mulched Leaves = Free Fertilizer
Mulched leaves can actually serve as fertilizer for your lawn. Deciduous tree leaves contain about 2% nitrogen, which is a crucial nutrient for plants, including grass. As these leaves decompose, they provide a little boost to your soil and lawn. The mulching process can be as simple as a regular mowing session with the mower deck closed, instead of open with side discharge. This allows the mower blades to continuously spin and break down leaves and debris in your lawn.
Here’s a pro tip: as Ohio temperatures start to drop (usually late-October to November), gradually lower the blade height on your mower by 0.5 inches each week until it reaches a grass height of approximately 2-2.5 inches. This ensures a smoother mulching or leaf removal process and reduces the risk of fungus problems like snow mold in your lawn.
Depending on the amount of leaves in your yard, you may need to mulch multiple times. Ideally, once or twice a week works well if you have large trees that consistently shed leaves. To make the task easier, choose a sunny afternoon with dry leaves, as they will be shredded into fine particles, especially if they’ve been on the ground for a few days.
Lastly, remember to spread out any remaining leaf piles after mulching. Use a leaf blower to scatter the clumps around your yard, as small piles of leaves can block the sunlight that the grass needs during the winter months. By mulching leaves, you not only save time on raking and bagging but also provide a natural nutrient source for your lawn all year round.
Certain Tree Species’ Leaves Are Easier to Mulch Than Others
Not all leaves are created equal when it comes to mulching. Ash or maple leaves can pose a challenge for mower blades due to their toughness. To make mulching easier, let these leaves dry out for a few days after they’ve fallen from the tree. On the other hand, oak leaves are more manageable. However, both maple and oak leaves, when mulched, have been proven to reduce dandelion populations in lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass. So, driving over maple leaves a few times to mulch them down is worth the extra effort.
Leaves Left in Your Lawn & Landscape Can Cause Issues
Leaves left scattered about your property can be problematic. Too many leaves can block sunlight, which can harm the health of your lawn and plants. If possible, mulch as many leaves as you can. If your lawn is overwhelmed with leaves even after several rounds of mulching, it may be best to bag up the leaves and take it to a yard waste site.
So Should You Remove Leaves or Mulch Them?
Mulching leaves provides an added nitrogen boost as the leaves eventually decompose. However, in the case for aesthetics removing leaves will be the most effective process to keep your lawn looking pristine, while reducing the chance for snow mold and other fungus to develop in your lawn heading into winter.