November 2012

Reduce raking duties by mulching leaves with a mower


A mulching mower turns leaves into a soil amendment. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

For many of us, the leaves of fall are a daunting task, but we know allowing them to pile up smothers the grass.

The task is particularly onerous when the leaves are plentiful and large, such as sycamore, sweet gum or maple.

The leaves from birch, ash, oak, linden and gingko trees are medium size and although plentiful, don’t seem to mound up as densely as their big-leaf cousins.

Mother Nature handles honeylocust leaves by blowing the tiny bits away. Any that remain are small enough that they won’t smother the grass. They will break down and help improve the soil.

Of course, raking or blowing leaves is always an option. Leaves can be moved into piles then bagged for the city to pick up and recycle. Paper bags are recommended because they decompose naturally.

Leaves also can be vacuumed up with specially designed equipment then placed in bags, or they can be mowed and blown into the grass catcher for bagging or dumping in the compost pile, applied as winter mulch or dug into in garden beds.

My methods is to mow the leaves with a mulching mower. The process chops the leaves into bits small enough to leave on the lawn to decompose and improve the soil. Sometimes it takes two passes with the mower, which is still less work than raking. Leaves I rake from the driveway or other hard surfaces get dumped into the compost pile.

Accumulation of leaves around trees and shrubs mimics nature and provides a natural insulation for perennials. As the leaves break down, they add organic matter to the soil.

Landscapers usually blow leaves on to a tarp so they can be loaded onto the trucks. Most landscapers recycle leaves and yard waste, but you can always ask if that is a priority for you.