As fall approaches and the leaves start to fall off trees in your yard, your kids may be looking forward to being able to “crunch” leaves under their shoes – and you may be dreading the almost daily ritual of raking and bagging leaf litter. You’ll be happy to hear that raking everything up actually isn’t necessary, and in fact, leaving some of those leaves on the lawn as mulch is better for the lawn’s health and for smaller creatures in the ecosystem.
Reasons To Rake Leaves
You already know that raking leaves makes a yard look neater; a couple of other benefits exist, too. One, raking up your leaves prevents wind from blowing the leaves into the street, where rain can wash the leaves into storm drains, creating clogs that later lead to street flooding. Raking up the leaves also gives your lawn or other groundcovers breathing space, exposing the ground to sunlight. So there are still some very valid reasons to keep raking those leaves up.
Reasons To Not Rake Leaves
But you don’t have to rake all of them up as leaving them on the lawn – and letting them decompose there – creates nutritious mulch for the soil. You can even take some of that mulch and place it in other plant beds. Leaf litter also provides shelter for beneficial bugs like moths and some butterflies.
How To Mulch Instead
If you have a lawnmower with a mulching setting, remove the leaf-collector bag and mow over the leaves you want to mulch. The bits will fly out of the mower (where the collector bag would normally go) and back out onto the lawn.
If you don’t have a mulching option, there are standalone and hand-held mulchers that you can buy or rent. Once the leaf bits are on the lawn, you simply leave them there. As other leaves fall on the lawn, you can either mulch those as well or rake those up if you already have a lot of leaf mulch.
A Warning About Tree Diseases
As you decide whether or not to mulch instead of rake, watch out for leaves that appear diseased – not just old, but mildewed, chewed up, and so on. You don’t want to add potential pathogens to the soil in other parts of the yard. If you see these or other signs of disease, rake up the leaves instead and have an arborist inspect your trees immediately.
Don’t Smother The Lawn
You’ll have to reach a happy medium if you decide to mulch because if you mulch everything and cover the lawn with inches of diced leaf bits, you’re just going to smother the rest of the grass and kill the lawn. Sunlight won’t be able to reach the soil and leftover grass, and the rotting mulch is just going to form a thick layer of muck. Instead, mulch a thin layer of leaves one week and then rake up freshly fallen leaves over the next few days. Then see if you can mulch another thin layer of leaves. You want to be able to see your lawn through the leaf bits, so monitor how everything looks and go week by week.