Raking leaves with the kids is fun. Sometimes. Ok, well, most of the time it’s an unwanted chore. But raking leaves is not a necessary chore. You can skip raking leaves and go directly to mowing the leaves down into your lawn. Just remove the bagger attachment from your mower and let it either shoot them out the side (only on older models!) or let the mower “mulch” them by driving the chopped up leaves down into the lawn.
Mow Over Them to Reduce Their Size
The prime reason for leaf raking is this: leaves left untouched where they fall will kill the lawn under them. Individual unmown or unshredded leaves usually have too large a surface area to be left in place on the ground. It would be no different than laying layers of wet news paper down, something we do to kill lawn grass were we don’t want it. Running a lawn mower over the leaves chops them into little pieces that don’t kill the lawn they are laying on. According to Terasa Young, Clemson Extension natural resources agent, reduce the leaves to roughly dime-sized pieces or smaller. This creates surface area enough on the leaves to allow them to ‘rot down’ over the winter. Leaves shredded this way become the black dirt you want in your lawn and under your trees. And at that size they won’t ‘mat down’ and kill your lawn grass while still relieving you of any leaf raking.
Mow Over Them Once a Week
Leaves don’t’ fall all at once. For instance, on a windy day more will fall or after a hard frost. Mowing the leaves-same as mowing the lawn-once a week will make sure you get all the fallen leaves chopped up and not leave any piles big enough to smother your turf. If it rains, be prepared to mow as soon as possible after the leaves dry out some. They do not have to be bone dry, although that does a better job of shredding them. Even very wet, they will shred. It will mean going slower with the mower though.
Mow Them to Spread Them Out
Let the whole lawn benefit with this ‘free fertilizer’. If your leaf pile is under one tree alone, consider mowing in a line headed away from the tree in an effort to spread the leaves out some. On the other hand, the soil under the trees needs the composted leaves as much as any other part of your lawn, to retain moisture and grow thicker grass. Remember, the chopped up leaves is as much a soil conditioner as it is a fertilizer for your soil. And this might be a great time to also apply fertilizer the last time to your lawn. It will help them break down even faster, while ‘fixing’ the fertilizer and limiting any runoff in the autumn rains. And still no leaf raking!
So, there you have it! The easy alternative to leaf raking. Oh, and how much material does this keep out of the land fill? One more ‘green’ reason, one more ‘bragging point’ for not raking your leaves this fall!
Terasa Young, Clemson Extension natural resources agent. “Mulching, composting make use of fall’s leaves”
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