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Why Is Mulching Leaves Into Lawn A Good Idea?

Mulching leaves is one of the easiest ways to add beneficial microbes into the soil. Mulching leaves turns them into plant-usable organic matter once decomposed by earthworms and microorganisms. Also, mulching leaves is much better for the environment compared to bagging them.

Have a bunch of leaves messing up your yard and not sure what to do with them? This can be quite unappealing and leave you with a rather untidy-looking yard, especially when it’s windy. 

There are two solutions you can consider here: mulch leaves or bag them for city pick-up. In this article, I’ll be discussing the more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective option: mulching leaves.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about mulching leaves from how to do it and what are the pros and cons of this lawn technique!

Mulching Pros And Cons 

Man with a plaid shirt outside the backyard sweeping a lot of leaves

As with everything, there are both pros and cons to mulching leaves into your lawn.

Pros

Let’s look at some mulching pros:

  • Mulching leaves into your lawn helps to improve the health of your soil. This is because it can increase the level of microbial activity in your soil, as well as act as a food source for earthworms and other microorganisms living in your soil. 

This helps to create a balanced environment for your lawn as it has more access to the nutrients it needs to thrive, helping to restrict weed growth.

  • Mulching has a positive impact on the environment. This is because it helps reduce the amount of waste needed to be taken to the landfill while giving you the benefit of a healthier lawn. 
  • Additionally, it’s a more eco-friendly approach, as you save on plastic garbage bags.
  • Mulching fallen leaves saves you both time and effort. This is because it tends to be a less labor-intensive process compared to raking and bagging your leaves, and it is generally faster than raking, as well. It also saves you from having to take the bags of mulched leaves to landfill sites or waiting on pickup and disposal by the city.

Cons

Now that we’ve looked at some of the pros, let’s look at some cons to mulching:

  • You need to know the right amount of mulched material to add to your lawn. While adding mulched leaves to your lawn and yard has obviously got numerous benefits, adding too much can actually end up smothering your grass, preventing it from growing thick and healthy.  
  • An excess amount of leaves can also create thatch, which stops nutrients, sunshine and water from getting to your soil, as well as creates an environment that can overheat soil. It can also create a place for harmful insects to hide out. Therefore, adding too much mulch to your lawn can be detrimental rather than helpful.
  • Weather is another factor you need to take into consideration when mulching leaves. Mulching an excess of wet leaves can also lead to your grass being smothered.

So, as you can see, there are definitely some cons to mulching. However, as long as you are aware of what to avoid, the benefits of mulching leaves do seem to outweigh the cons. It contributes to your overall lawn care while being a less daunting and “back-breaking” task than raking.

Tools You Can Use For Mulching

Red lawnmower mowing over dry leaves

Of course, as you probably know, there are a number of different tools you can use to mulch leaves and get rid of that leaf litter in your yard. You just need to decide which one will work best for you. Each of them essentially does the same thing. Let’s look at some of those options.

Stand-Alone Mulcher

Stand-alone mulchers look similar to wood clippers and sit in a spot in your yard, waiting for you to dump your leaves into it. There is a collection bag containing the mulched material which you can then carry to wherever you need to mulch leaves into your lawn.

Handheld Mulcher 

You will likely find that a majority of your mulchers are the handheld type and shred the leaves and collect them in a bag attached to it. You have the option to choose between gas, battery-powered or electric cord models.

String Trimmer

If you’re up for protecting your eyes and can deal with some dust, then using a string trimmer is an option for you. You just place your leaves into something large such as a trash can or bucket and insert a string trimmer to mulch the leaves.

Mulching Lawn Mower

A mulching lawn mower has baffling under the deck, as well as unique mowing blades that allow the leaves and grass clippings to be cut a number of times while inside the chamber. The finely chopped leaves and/or grass are then pushed down onto the surface of your lawn.

A Normal Lawn Mower 

In today’s day and age, there are a lot of mowers with mulching capabilities. You can take your traditional mower and just make a few modifications like adding a separate blade to it. These separated blades are specifically designed for leaf mulching. 

Any type of mower will do the trick with a few passes over the leaves, so while it will probably make it easier, using a separate blade isn’t completely necessary. You will need to set the mower height and blade to their highest setting and remove the bag that collects the grass clippings and shredded leaves to allow them to go straight back onto your lawn.

This video by Maritime Gardening demonstrates why a good old lawn mower is such a great tool for mulching:

Pro tip: If you don’t have a specific tool to shred leaves, simply use the tools you have at your disposal already. This is often the easiest and most cost-effective option in any case!

How To Mulch Leaves Into Your Lawn

Why Is Mulching Leaves Into Lawn A Good Idea?

Mulching leaves into your lawn is a quick and simple process. There also happens to be lots of other benefits of mulching leaves, as mentioned above, including contributing to efficient lawn care.

The key nutrients for a healthy lawn are potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen, all of which mulched leaves give back to your lawn. 

Here are some steps to help you get rid of those fall leaves by mulching them into your lawn:

Step 1: Leave a thin layer of your fallen leaves on your lawn or collect your fallen leaves and use your selected tool to mulch them. 

Step 2: You should aim to bring your chopped leaves down to shreds that are around half an inch in diameter. An easy way to tell if you’ve achieved your goal is to compare the size of the pieces to the size of a dime.

It will likely take you more than one pass over the lawn to bring the leaves down to the size you want, but by the end of the process, the shredded leaves should sit between the grass blades, allowing you to still see most of your lawn.

Step 3: Use your mower to bag any excess leaves as you should still be able to see your grass. It is important to ensure that when you add the mulched material, you can still see your grass blades and that they are not restricted but instead still standing tall and upright. You may need to still use a rake or a leaf blower to ensure it is spread evenly.

Step 4: These leaves will then fertilize your lawn as they decompose. Valuable nutrients are created by these decomposing leaves which feed the worms and soil microbes, which you would find in any healthy lawn. One of these nutrients is nitrogen, which helps in creating natural fertilizer for your lawn.

Check out this video by YouTube user Grass Doctor to learn more about the biggest mulching mistakes and how to avoid them:

Raking Versus Mulching Leaves

A woman with a rake cleaning her garden of fallen dry leaves
Caucasian farmer woman with a rake cleaning her garden of fallen leaves

Both mulching and raking have pros and cons attached to them, however, mulching is found to be a more efficient and faster leaf removal method compared to raking. If you decide to mulch, it also removes the hassle of needing to collect the leaves and dispose of them properly.

Some of the benefits of raking include preventing mold and disease to maintain a healthy lawn. Mulching, on the other hand, is beneficial if you’re looking for a faster method that’s still going to maintain soil health. 

The disadvantages of raking include it being a daunting task that can be quite costly as you need to dispose of the leaves properly. Mulching cons include the method not working for certain types of organic material as well as needing to be repeated to prevent build-up.

Tips And Tricks About Mulching

Lawn mower close-up mows the lawn in the summer garden

Is your yard surrounded by trees that lose their leaves annually and you don’t know what to do with the excess leaves you’ve mulched? You can use them in other parts of your yard that could do with some extra nutrients in addition to your lawn. You can use them in your vegetable patch and your flower garden beds. 

If you’ve spread as much of your mulched material as you can across various parts of your yard, you can always turn your excess mulch into a compost pile. Leaves break down best in compost piles if they are already shredded, however, you can still mix in some non-mulched leaves and they will eventually break down.

Most leaves are good for mulching, but some aren’t such a good idea due to them containing toxins. These include walnut and eucalyptus leaves. Some leaves are better than others for composting and these are ones that are higher in nitrogen and calcium and lower in lignin.  Maple leaves are among those that are better for composting. 

They break down quickly, are high in nutrients and they assist in curbing the spread of broadleaf weeds such as dandelions which typically crop up during spring.

A child happily playing with dry leaves under a tree

You should note that if your lawn quality isn’t better after mulching and you’ve done the process correctly, there may be other factors that are contributing to the problem.

This can include a lack of soil microbial life, which can be enhanced through fertilizer applications. Even though mulched material is a natural fertilizer, they are sometimes not enough to maintain the fertility of your soil.

Picking the right time of day to mow your lawn is also something you should consider when mowing leaves for mulch. The two best times for mowing leaves are mid-morning or late afternoon. This is because the temperature isn’t too hot and there has been enough time for the grass to dry out. 

You should avoid mowing leaves in the early morning when there is still dew from the previous night, as well as midday or evening. Choosing the wrong time of the day to mow your lawn can undo all your hard work for a healthy and lush lawn.

FAQs

Are Mulched Leaves Good For Lawns?

Mulched leaves are good for lawns. Once decomposed, leaves turn into plant-usable organic matter and make good compost. They improve soil health, maximize lawn growth and help you cut costs by eliminating the need for garbage bags. Mulching leaves is also much more eco-friendly and requires less time than bagging.

Can I Just Mow Over My Leaves?

You can mow over your leaves. Mowing leaves breaks them down into smaller pieces, making it easy for air and sun to get through. If you go this route, it’s best to use a mulching mower because its unique blades will cut the leaves finer than a regular mower. 

How Long Does It Take Mulched Leaves To Decompose?

It takes mulched leaves a week to decompose. However, this depends on several factors such as weather conditions, what type of leaves you’re using and how finely mulched the leaves are. 

What Happens If You Don’t Rake Your Leaves?

If you don’t rake your leaves, it’ll create a thick layer that air, sun and nutrients aren’t able to permeate. Due to this, lawn growth could suffer as it’ll be more susceptible to disease and pests.

Ready To Mulch Your Leaves?

Instead of going through the whole process of raking and bagging fall leaves, going through the mulching route is much easier, cost-effective and less time-consuming. 

I highly recommend giving it a try if you’re struggling to maintain your yard and get rid of leaves.

We hope you found this helpful! Please leave me a comment below and share it with a friend if you did.

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