When we first moved into our house, we had several mature trees on our property. Naturally, they dropped leaves on the lawn every fall. We discovered quickly that raking all the fall leaves by hand was an arduous, and time-consuming chore. It was not how I wanted to spend precious time.
The next fall, our neighbor with the perfect lawn let us in on a secret: he didn’t rake his fall leaves. Instead, he got out his mulching mower and cut the grass. Doing so shredded the leaves into tiny pieces that didn’t visibly cover the lawn.
My husband had to try it, and it worked perfectly. We told my father, who was skeptical at first. But now he’s a convert.
With a good mulching mower and a not-too-thick layer of fall leaves, you can just leave the shredded leaves on your lawn. Over the winter they will rot, contributing organic matter that improves your soil health. And healthy soil leads to a better lawn.
When the fall leaves are very thick, under a large tree for example, even the mulched leaf layer may be too much for the lawn. If so, my husband attaches the bag that catches the grass clippings to the lawn mower and runs it over the lawn–and the leaves. He does need to stop periodically to empty the bag, making this more work than just leaving the mulched leaves on the lawn.
While many people in my neighborhood bag their fall leaves for yard waste disposal, or you can use whatever method is prevalent to get rid of leaves in your neighborhood, it’s more green to reuse the shredded leaves as mulch in your own yard. This way, no fossil-fuel energy is expended to bring the leaves to a remote site, where they are composted. And if you’re buying compost for an organic garden in the spring, or bagged mulch, your free leaf mulch will mean you’ll need less bagged compost (or mulch) next year.
In our neighborhood, we pay $1.50 for each of the paper leaf bags used to haul leaves away, and another $1.00 for a sticker required for the city to pick up the bags when it’s not a free leaf collection day. On fall days when there’s trash pickup, some neighbors who do not mulch their leaves put out more than a dozen of these paper bags for pickup. Mulching the leaves does reduce the number of bags to be put out by the curb, because they reduce the volume the leaves occupy. But of course the least expensive choice is to not put out the leaves at all.
The best places I’ve found to put the shredded leaves my husband doesn’t leave on the lawn are the vegetable garden, new garden beds that need extra organic matter, and a shade garden filled with woodland plants near my garage. One year, I asked my neighbor for some extra leaves for the woodland garden. He was thrilled, because he didn’t have to pay to dispose of his leaves. I was happy, because I got free mulch.