Mulching Leaves Is Good for Your Lawn

iowa50126(z5IA)October 3, 2008

Don't rake/burn or bag/throwout your fall leaves this year. Mulch them into your turf grass.

Each Fall I get out the leaf blower and corral my leaves into certain areas of my lawn. I have some spots that in the past seem to dryout faster in the the heat of summer. I pile up the leaves and mulch mow them until they are pulverized. I even get leaves from the neighbors to supplement my leaves.

The extra organic material in these problem areas has helped keep my grass greener and less prone to dormancy as I do not irrigate my lawn.

Purdue U studied the effect of mulching leaves into lawns and found...

1. Leaves have no effect on turf visual quality or color

2. Leaves have no effect on turf growth measure by clipping weights

3. Leaves have no effect on mat or thatch depth

4. Leaves have no effect on soil pH or nutrient availability

5. Leaves have no effect on incidence of red thread, pink patch or dollar spot

6. Leaves have no effect on weed infestation

I'm convinced this is the "green" way to go on fall leaves. Instead of being an aggravating nuisance they are an asset.

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Did that Purdue Study list any benefits of mulching.

I mulch leaves also, considering them additional organic material to feed microbes of the soil food web.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2008 at 1:27PM
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skoot_cat

I complete agree, they are great for additional organic matter. I also gather bags around the neighborhood and use them as (free) mulch in my plant beds. They work great.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2008 at 1:45PM
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jeannie7

Yes, we all know about the goodness that comes from injesting leaves and other organic material into our soils.
But....some people do not have the wherewithall...nor the inclination to chew up leaves with a mower fine enough that it becomes able to be composted down.
As often is the case, rainfall has wetted the leavees and makes for mowing them very difficult.
It is very disconcerting to have a mower go over a large leaf and find afterwards it has escaped the blade.
Gasoline is expensive enough without having to back up and go over something that will blow away anyway,

And, one leaving leaves not chewed up, is inviting all manner of diseases and pests that inject themselves into the leaves.
If a lawn is in poor health, and a layer of leaves is left to winter over, it will do nothing for the lawn except maybe cause it to become even more in poor health.

Besides, even if you don't use them, raking the leaves--and thus the ground, is good for the grass.
If not chewed, bag them and keep them over for adding to the compost next spring/summer or keep for leaf mold to give to roses.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2008 at 5:39PM
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soccer_dad

I'll never rake another leaf. It is too much fun and so much easier to mulch mow them into the lawn.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2008 at 6:57PM
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decklap(5IL)

Another mode up for mulching the leaves.

If you have the means to mow your lawn you have the means to mulch leaves and the benefits far far outstrip the drawbacks.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2008 at 7:55PM
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heimert(7)

I have same question about benefits.

Why not bag and put them in your compost pile instead?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 3:01PM
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soccer_dad

I have 2 reasons for not bagging and composting. First, the bagger for my tractor was ~$1K. Gator blades were $50 a set. I'm cheap/lazy and don't like the extra work of bagging. Did it for years; mulching is a whole lot better. Second, my lawn is my compost pile, per se. Why pile it up just to spread it back out? I just let it compost in place.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 7:49PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Let's not forget to mention that OM (organic matter) does have a positive effect on hard clay soils in that it will get all those little critters working to soften and add nutrients to the soil...and all good things come from the soil, meaning you can't grow anything well unless the soil is in good health.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 6:57AM
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heimert(7)

Since my bag was included with mower, it's not a cost. I can use the mulch in the garden as well.

I've been mulch mowing the grass--the question is with the leaves this fall. The mower doesn't seem to really chop them up well. I'm sure they'll break down over time, but it looks kind of messy in the meantime.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 1:34PM
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weigojmi

Quick perhaps dumb question. Either my ol' mower didn't come with a mulch door or I've somehow lost it. So assuming I cut before the lawn gets too long, is side discharging leaves and lawn clippings as beneficial as mulch mowing?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2008 at 7:36AM
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golfnbrian(4)

In my neighborhood, there are so many mature trees and dense wooded areas that if I only mulched them, and never bagged or raked, the ground would be covered in a thick mat of mulched leaves that wouldn't break down until next July....not all advice is appropriate for every lawn.

I agree with mulching, I'm just saying that for homeowners with lots of mature trees, you should consider mulching in combination with raking/bagging.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2008 at 4:30PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

"is side discharging leaves and lawn clippings as beneficial as mulch mowing?"

Years ago, before mulch mowers were popular, my dad had a side discharge mower. When the grass was growing really fast, it would sometimes end up in clumps, so we would rake at those times. At other times, we'd leave the clippings on the lawn.

The advantage of a mulch mower is that the discharge chute is blocked, so the grass stays under the deck and is repeatedly cut until it is shredded more finely.

Some people buy mulching blades that have extra blades and cut the grass more finely. These are supposed to work better for mowers that don't have a mulch mowing mode.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2008 at 5:55PM
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west_mi(Z 5b !)

Is DEERSLAYER still around this forum?

If so, I wanted to thank him for converting me to mulching. This is my 3rd season of mulching 3 acres of leaves ( that i used to vacuum ). I have no regrets and should have started 10 years earlier.

I used to actually plan my 2-week vacation around fall clean up, not any more. I just mow a little more frequently this time of year and that's it. The lawn looks great in the spring.

My quality of life has improved thanks to Deerslayer. : )

Jim R

ps: the Country Clipper ZTR has about 50 hours on it now. I love it more each season.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 4:17PM
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theyardbird(z7 OK, TTTF)

I mulch the majority of my leaves. However, similar to golfnbrian, I have 7 mature pecan trees on my lot (our whole neighborhood used to be a pecan orchard) and I get a LOT of leaves. I have Gator blades that do a good job of mulching the leaves. However I have so many leaves that even the finely mulched pieces can still smother the lawn. So...I mulch most and bag the rest (a neighbor usually takes the bags for his compost).

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 6:53PM
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1saxman

'Quick perhaps dumb question. Either my ol' mower didn't come with a mulch door or I've somehow lost it. So assuming I cut before the lawn gets too long, is side discharging leaves and lawn clippings as beneficial as mulch mowing?'

I'm intruding from the mower forum, and I have an interest in leaf mulching, so I'll chime in.
If you can't close off your discharge port, you can make a 'leaf shredder' for your mower. It is simply a piece of heavy-duty steel screen (expanded metal) that is shaped to cover the discharge port. Leaves are held inside the deck and re-cut until the pieces can get through the screen. If you're not handy with tools you may need assistance with this. Leaf shredders are sold as accessories for some name-brand mowers, like Toro and Honda. You would use a leaf shredder with the discharge chute for 'mulching' and with the bag for greatly increased capacity before dumping. If you don't use either a mulch plate or a shredder, whole leaves will be blown out the discharge port along with some chopped pieces, so it will not be the same as mulching.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 9:33AM
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1saxman

I have been mulching leaves for 15 years, but am new to actually doing it on the lawn and leaving it there. previously I bagged the leaves and dumped them in areas fit for creating raised beds. I then ran the mulching mower over them until they were sufficiently reduced. This leaf mulch turns to rich, black soil in one year!
Now that I have started treating them on the lawn, a few additional strategies are worth mentioning. When the leaf fall gets too thick and you can't keep up, just keep mulching. If it's then too thick on the lawn, go over it with the bag on. Always try to mulch before it rains. If the leaves get wet, all you can do is wait for them to dry or rake.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 10:02AM
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lamcon

I heard one today that I had to come ask about. Can mulching leaves cause thatch? Googling the topic, the best I could come up with for that argument was that the stems of the leaves can accumulate and not decompose as quickly which would cause a thatch mat. Other than that, I think it's their lawn treatment person filling their heads. Any ideas on that?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 8:11PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

Some people think that mulch mowing (usually mulch mowing grass) can cause thatch. In fact, in almost all cases, mulch mowing can help reduce thatch. The one exception to this is with zoysia. Zoysia can develop thatch problems if it is mulch mowed. Since Zoysia is a warm season grass, it's unlikely that you have a Zoysia lawn.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 8:22PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Strange. I've never seen zoysia with thatch problems at my mom's in Houston. Granted, it's just a small area in st augustine lawn that we've been mulch mowing for 15 years. It did turn soil into great stuff with millions of earthworms and apparently made lawn much more self sustainable. Rainfall is all they get.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 9:00PM
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bpgreen(5UT)

It may be only certain varieties of Zoysia. I admit that I don't know much about it, but I once made a blanket statement that mulch mowing never adds to thatch problems and somebody told me that it can with Zoysia. I did some research to prove him wrong and instead found some information supporting him.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 9:56PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Perhaps what you found was based on the soil that isn't so biologically active? You know synthetic vs organic??

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 10:55PM
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turf_toes(SE Pennsylvania KBG)

The extra organic material in these problem areas has helped keep my grass greener and less prone to dormancy as I do not irrigate my lawn.

Purdue U studied the effect of mulching leaves into lawns and found...

1. Leaves have no effect on turf visual quality or color
2. Leaves have no effect on turf growth measure by clipping weights
3. Leaves have no effect on mat or thatch depth
4. Leaves have no effect on soil pH or nutrient availability
5. Leaves have no effect on incidence of red thread, pink patch or dollar spot
6. Leaves have no effect on weed infestation

Well, the study seems to contradict your conclusions.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 8:36PM
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grayentropy

Agreed that mulching leaves are good for the lawn.

I have accumulated so many OPL that I have ran out of storage spots for them and mulched them in my lawn.

Here is a snaped by my amused wife of me spreading OPL on my front lawn prior to mulch mowing them in. She kept asking if I was going to really spread leaves on my lawn that other spent hours removing from theres. I just smiled and said I needed to get to work!

I don't have an after picture, but after three passes and alternative directions the leaves are all gone. I'm expecting another 6-12 bags this weekend from my freecycle friends and expect to do it again.

Besides leaves, I feed my lawn mulched grass clippings from mowing, soybean meal, rabbit food, milorganite, cornmeal, compost and whatever else I can find (ideally for free).

This is the third year for this lawn and it has always been feed organicaly. Prior to that it was a weed pasture.

The straw bales (I was specific that no hay was allowed) and pumpkins by the lamp post will be used to insulate the top of my compost bins for the winter.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 10:14PM
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mdander

After I mulch in the fall should I power rake in the spring?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 3:33PM
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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Ordinarily there would be no need to power rake in the spring resulting from mulch mowing your autumn leaves. A light hand raking would be good especially in areas where that grass has laid down.
Bill Hill

Here is a link that might be useful: Spring Cleanup

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 3:57PM
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