November 4, 2009

How to deal with fallen leaves - don't!

I was so thrilled when I read this article from Fine Gardening E-Newsletter! I have been mulching leaves with my mower for years but this year my "yard man" son warned me that I am messing up the ph in my soil by mulching my tons of leaves. Then along comes this newsletter. No more raking and bagging for me!

Improve your soil by raking less
by Terry Ettinger

If you dread the annual fall leaf-raking marathon, I have good news for you: Raking and collecting leaves every autumn is a tradition without scientific basis. Research has proven that mowing leaves into your lawn can improve its vigor, and observation shows that unraked leaves in planting beds don’t smother shade-tolerant perennials.

Based upon research at several uni­versities, the organic matter and nutrients from leaves mown into lawn areas has been proven to improve turf quality. At Michigan State, researchers set a rotary mower to cut at a height of 3 inches and then mowed an 18-inch-deep layer of leaves into test plots. That’s the equivalent of 450 pounds of leaves per 1,000 square feet. The tests resulted in improved soil and healthy lawns with few remnant leaves visible the following spring.

You can achieve similar results if you set your mower to cut at the same height as in the Michigan State study, and mow at least once a week during peak leaf fall when your lawn reaches a height of 4 inches. Leaves shred most efficiently when slightly damp, so mow after a light dew. If you follow these simple guidelines, you will never rake another leaf and improve the quality of your soil.


  1. We do this with the first drift of leaves, and it definitely hasn't hurt our grass. However, we have so many leaves come the end of November that we do have to rake them then.

    I think it's hilarious that anyone would worry about getting the leaves out of the flower beds!

  2. Shoot, up until this year, I've mulched them till they are all gone. Of course, that was every weekend! I have more than 30 old, tall oak trees on my little acre. I do intend to take a bunch of leaves to a weedy part of my back yard and use them as mulch to smother those weeds.

    I love digging under the leaves in the early spring to see whats popping up.