It's about this time of year homeowners take to their yards, rakes in hand, to battle the falling leaves. The trees we count on for summer shade shed their foliage and create hours and hours of work and long rows of bags along our driveways. But should it be that much work?
Turf experts at Michigan State University have a different theory. The ban on yard waste in Michigan during the 90s prompted MSU turfgrass specialists to begin investigating how lawns would react to having ground up leaves left on the lawn and the results may surprise you!
Just leave the leaves and mulch them.
Once the leaves start falling, elevate your mower deck to the highest setting and mow the leaves as you would your lawn, crossing over the leaves once or twice. If the leaves are falling at a slow, but steady pace you may get away with only one mulching per week, but if there is a heavy wind, you may find yourself mowing twice in one week. There will be an obvious leaf residue on the surface of the lawn that only lasts for a few days. The tiny pieces will eventually sift down through the turf and provide future weed control and essential nutrients that can save you money and time. Come spring, you won’t even notice the tiny leaf particles.
Up to 6 inches of leaves can be “mulched” at a time, depending on the type of mower you have. Push mowers will handle smaller amounts, but are still very effective. If your mower bogs down you may need to slow down or even thin the leaves out with a blower or rake to get the mower to pass over them. During the research, several years passed and turf scientists starting noticing several benefits including needing less fertilizer to achieve that spring green up. The second benefit was – what, no weeds?
The decomposing pieces of leaves cover up bare spots between turf plants that are an excellent opening for weed seeds to germinate. Experience has shown that nearly a 100 percent decrease in dandelions and crabgrass can be attained after adopting this practice of mulching leaves for just three years.
So put away the rake and keep the mower full of gas until the last leaves hit the ground. Your lawn and your blisterless hands will thank you.