How To Mulch Fall Leaves

Excerpted from: Mulch Your Leaves Into the Lawn in the Fall by Kelly Burke

Fall Leaves So what do you do with your leaves in the fall? It turns out that mulching them and returning them to the lawn offers many benefits. If there is an abundance of leaves, you should use them as mulch for gardens and planting beds or as filler for your compost pile. Don't put them on the curb, especially if they are landfill-bound. Leaves are free organic matter and should be used on the property they came from when possible.

If you allow fallen leaves to remain on your lawn without raking them away or mulching them using the mower or a leaf mulcher, they can suffocate your lawn by depriving it of light and air. Mulching fallen leaves helps to provide a nutritious, protective mulch for the grass, clear unsightly leaves, and stop the leaf litter suffocating the lawn. All things considered - mulching is good garden practice!

Mulching leaves is a great way to dispose of them. It can reduce a pile of leaves to about one-tenth of its volume. Mulching also mixes grass clippings with the leaf particles. The nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles compost more quickly when they're mixed together than they do separately.


A study by Michigan State University indicates that mulching is 100% beneficial for the lawn. Mulched leaves are decomposed by earthworms and microorganisms and turned into plant-usable organic matter. Mulched leaves are better for the greater community, too, because they stay on-site and out of landfills.

Oak leaves and maple leaves were mulched and redistributed through test lawns and found to have a negligible or beneficial effect on turf quality and color. They had no negative effects. Mulched sugar maple leaves even appeared to inhibit broadleaf weeds such as dandelions.

Mulching With A Lawn Mower

Mulching fall leaves with a lawn mower   Side Discharge. Use this method if you want to mulch leaves back into the yard or chop them into fine particles that you'll pick up later with the mower and the bag. It's the best method if the grass is tall and moist and the leaf cover is heavy or wet. Mow in stripes so that you cut the discharged stripe from the previous pass. You can also mow outward or inward in concentric circles so that you cut and recut the particles.

  Mulching Lawn Mower. A mulching mower uses unique mowing blades in conjunction with "baffling" under the deck. The leaves or grass clippings are cut multiple times as they circulate in the interior chamber. The finely chopped material eventually gets pushed down onto the lawn surface. Occasionally, leaves will have to be mowed several times. It may seem a little tedious, but it is far more cost-effective and labor-saving than alternatives like raking or leaf blowing.

Mulching With A Leaf Mulcher/Shredder

Using a Leaf Mulcher   What is a leaf mulcher? A leaf mulcher is a powered tool that contains a series of special blades designed to shred leaves into very small pieces. The leaves can then be used for mulching or added to a compost pile.

  How does a leaf mulcher work? Leaves are placed in a holding container for the machine which funnels them through the special blades of the leaf mulcher. The blades shred the leaves and deposit them into a bin or basket underneath. Some mulchers do not actually have blades per se. They often use some form of a metal string, sort of like a weed eater on steroids, but the principle is the same. As the leaves pass through the chamber of the mulcher, they are shredded by the fast-spinning metal piece before being deposited into the catch chamber.

  Uses for leaf mulcher. Using shredded leaves as mulch in garden beds and around plants is an excellent way to prevent weed growth while providing a slow-release nutrient source that will feed the soil as it decomposes. This is probably a better solution than using pine straw as mulch since it will have less pH impact on the soil. In fact, studies have shown that leaf mulch adds impressive amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium for your soil and garden plants (Illinois Aces)

A Few Tips On Leaf Mulching

  Do not mulch to the point where the leaves cover and smother the grass. The grass blades should be vertical and visible through the layer of mulched leaves.

  It may help to spread the mulch around from thick spots to areas with thinner mulch distribution.

  Set the mower to a height of 3 inches and mow over the leaves. You may need to pass the mower over the leaves several times to achieve this. Try making the second pass at right angles to the first.

  Leave a one inch layer of leaf mulch on the lawn.

  Feed your lawn at the same time as mulching (for more information on fertilizing your lawn, see Fall Lawn and Garden Fertilization

Further Information on Lawn and Garden Mulching

 Mulch Basics
 7 Ways to Use Fall Leaves
 Leave The Leaves To Benefit Wildlife
 Fall Garden Planning
 Leaf Mold: Gardener's Gold

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