How Should I Mulch My Leaves?

Leaves are piling up outside and for many, it’s time to pull out the rake and blower and start bagging leaves to be taken away. Consider, however, that mulching your leaves back into your lawn can help enhance the soil and the effectiveness of your lawn fertilizer.

While leaving whole leaves on your lawn can sometimes smother the grass and leave dead patches, running over those leaves with a mulching mower creates an excellent fertilizer. Many mowers have the ability to mulch if you use the right blade. Mulching blades are serrated rather than straight and help to shred the leaves into small pieces 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. Be sure you go over the leaves a number of times, making sure they are broken down into small pieces. This way, the leaves will not mat together, but will settle down into the turf and be decomposed by valuable microorganisms within the soil.

These leaves will break down over the course of the winter and release nitrogen back into the soil. This nitrogen, in turn, will feed your lawn and help it to be as lush and green as possible come spring. 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 see 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.

You can also use fallen leaves as mulch for plantings rather than for lawn care. In this case, you’ll still need to shred leaves first, though not as small as when you’re using them for the lawn. No matter what you choose to do with them, leaves should always be shredded before use. When you pile up whole leaves, air and sunlight cannot get to the decomposing leaves at the bottom. This 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!