Should You Rake and Bag Your Leaves in the Fall?
Raking dead, dried leaves off your lawn every year can be a daunting task. But won’t leaving the leaves be harmful to your grass?
No, not if you grind the dead leaves with your mower so they can break down into the soil. Grinding leaves into the ground is an environmentally friendly alternative to raking or blowing the leaves from your yard. So skip the annual ritual of raking and bagging your leaves every fall, and instead just run a mulching mower over your lawn and grind the leaves into the ground.
Mulching dead leaves into the ground will enrich and nourish the soil, providing nutrients for the grass, and will help promote a healthy lawn the next year by acting as free fertilizer. The dead fall foliage can also provides much needed winter support for wildlife.
Why You Should Leave the Leaves
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leaves and other yard debris from homes in the U.S. add up to an astounding 13 percent, 33 million tons, of our nation’s solid waste every year. With limited oxygen to decompose, all that organic matter releases the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. Solid waste landfills are in fact the largest source of man-made methane in the country. And that’s not counting all the carbon dioxide generated by leaf vacuum and disposal trucks or gas powered leaf blowers.
You can use your regular lawn mower blades to mow over the leaves in your yard, although it may take more than one pass to thoroughly grind them, so be sure they are in small enough pieces of leaves so they filter between the blades of grass. But if you want to grind the leaves into finer pieces, change your mower blades over to mulching blades.
You won’t want to leave layers of whole dead leaves on your grass because they’ll cut out sunlight and create brown spots on your lawn, but try to leave some of your autumn leaves whole in other areas of the yard – like your garden beds and planters When autumn leaves are left on the ground they provide food and shelter for many beneficial insets and other wildlife, and provides nesting and bedding material for birds. Also, many types of butterfly and moth caterpillars overwinter in leaves before they emerge in the spring. If you have a vegetable garden, add some dried leaves to the soil to decompose for a great compost.
So instead of raking and bagging all those dead leaves out of your yard and pushing or dragging them to the curb every fall, recycle them. Not only will beneficial insects, wildlife and your lawn thank you, so will your back!