Fall leaf color has peaked, and now the remains of spent tree foliage is accumulating quickly on our lawns. Left untouched, a layer of leaves (especially wet leaves) can cause damage to turf by suffocation in a relatively short period of time. Depending on the amount of leaf coverage, mulching can be your best option.
Studies conducted by Purdue University and Michigan State University have found that mulching leaves regularly with your mower is an effective way to remove moderate leaf coverage and causes no harm to turf. Some studies indicate that the mulched leaf pieces can actually improve the soil as they decompose.
The key word is ‘moderate’ leaf coverage. Obviously, allowing several inches of leaves to accumulate on the lawn will deter effective mulching, so mow as often as needed to effectively mulch a thin layer of leaves each time. You may have to mow over the same area several times if the leaves are especially thick in certain spots. Also, be sure the leaves are dry when trying to mow, as wet leaves will not mulch properly.
If you are buried in leaves, removal is then required. Even then, some options may be available…
- Some municipalities will vacuum leaves raked to the curbside
- Some municipalities may pick up bagged leaves for compost/recycling. Note if there are bagging requirements (paper vs. plastic).
- For those with home vegetable gardens, a nice layer of leaves left to decompose on the soil surface over the winter and then tilled in next spring is a nice way to improve soil quality.
For some, raking leaves is a pleasurable pastime. It sure beats shoveling snow! Enjoy the fall!