Should You Leave the Leaves?
Depending on the size of your tree(s), raking leaves off of your the lawn could be a lot of work. Don’t you think it would be OK to leave them there to decompose on their own just like in the forest? Short answer- it depends. In forested areas, leaves fall where they may and break down at their own pace forming a protective layer over the soil. In urban areas, and in particular your lawn, it’s a different story. Too much fallen leaf build up on your lawn can cause problems and hinder the health of your grass over the winter and into spring. Lets discuss some methods in which we can use this valuable, free source of organic matter.
First it’s important to note that too much of a good thing can be……. a bad thing.
As the leaves slowly start to fall, the best method is to mow them a little at a time. As shreds of leaves trickle down between the grass blades they will begin breaking down and feeding the soil. We don’t recommend waiting until all of the leaves have fallen to do one big mow. This could cause suffocation to the grass, unneeded moisture retention and hinder the natural breakdown process from happening. If there are too many leaves, we recommend raking some up first and then mowing.
Since a thick layer of leaves can act like a barrier, mulching is a great option for leaves. Layering flower beds with leaf mulch can help retain moisture in the soil over the winter and since they’re 100% organic, they will feed the soil as they break down! Great areas are under shrubs, hedges and flower beds. If you’re worried about appearances, it might work best to try this in less visible spots since this is not the most favored look in urban areas. You can also add a layer of mulch over the leaves for a more orderly, finished impression.
Since leaves are a free source of valuable organic material, it’s definitely worth considering composting some or all of the leaves if you have the space to do so. They will be quite slow to break down on their own so you can speed up the process if you turn the pile regularly to provide oxygen. Adding grass clippings or other quick decaying items like coffee grounds and vegetable wastes will hasten their break down. You could then use this compost to spread over the lawn and fold into the beds during your spring planting next year.
Just use the blower
Most of us resort to the easiest method of leaf clean up: the leaf blower. Leaf blowers are best used on hardscape areas such as sidewalks and patios. If you use a blower on your lawn or in landscape beds, try to keep it to a minimum and don’t use the blower on the high setting. Get out the hand rake now and then to manually remove leaves from the lawn and beds to reduce soil compaction and burn off a few extra calories!
A little effort can heed big rewards in your landscape and not to mention, you’re helping the environment!