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How to Mulch Leaves

For many people, when the leaves fall it’s time to pull out the rake and the blower and start bagging leaves to be taken away. However, what you may not know is that by not raking leaves and leaving them on your lawn instead you can help enhance the soil and the effectiveness of your lawn fertilizer. 

It’s important not to leave whole leaves on your lawn as they can smother the grass, blocking the sun and eventually killing the lawn. Instead, you should run over those fallen leaves with a mulching mower. Most mowers have the ability to mulch if you use the right blade. A mulching blade is serrated rather than straight and helps to shred the leaves as you go over them. If you’re using a regular mower you’ll need to put on the mulching blade before starting your task. If you’re using a mulching mower you just need to raise the blade up as high as it goes and remove the grass catcher so that the shredded leaves go back onto the lawn. These leaves will break down over the course of the winter releasing nitrogen back into the soil. This nitrogen, in turn, will feed your lawn and help it to be as lush and green as possible. It will also help your lawn to fight off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass. Depending on how thick the tree cover around your property is you may have to mow once a week or so until the leaves stop falling.

As you mow over the leaves you’ll notice the pieces getting smaller and smaller until they sink down a bit between the grass blades. Once the grass is showing through, and the leaves are broken down to confetti size, you’re done with your lawnmower or mulching mower. 

If you want to use your fallen leaves as mulch for plantings rather than for lawn care you’ll still need to shred leaves first, though not as small as when you’re using them for the lawn. Even leaves destined for the compost pile should get shredded rather than remain as whole leaves. When you pile up whole leaves air and sunlight cannot get to the decomposing leaves, and it becomes worse once they get wet and soggy. Mold and diseases can grow in this anaerobic environment. Your mulch, like your compost pile, should be as fluffy as possible so that air can circulate and nature’s decomposers can do their work. The idea of leaf mulching is to protect the ground from freezing, thawing, and then re-freezing because this is damaging to plants. The leaf layer in this case serves as a temperature regulator to keep this from happening. You’ll want a thick layer of shredded leaves for leaf mulching your garden beds. 

So before breaking out the rake and the blower this year consider mulching your leaves instead. Your garden, and especially the soil, will thank you!