Leaf drop is a common occurrence for metro Atlanta properties with trees and because of that, homeowners and business property managers must face the decision of how to manage their lawn and landscape areas each autumn.
Top Benefits of Mulching Leaves
Mulched Leaves = Free Fertilizer
Mulching leaves brings numerous benefits, including free fertilizer. Deciduous tree leaves contain approximately 2% nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plants and grass. As these leaves decompose, they provide a natural boost to the soil and lawn. Mulching can be as simple as mowing with the mower deck closed, allowing the blades to break down leaves and debris.
Pro tip: to optimize the mulching process by gradually lower the blade height on your mower as temperatures drop and grass growth slows down. Aim for a grass height of around 2-2.5 inches. This prepares your lawn for an efficient mulching or leaf removal process and minimizes the risk of snow mold or other fungal issues.
Depending on the volume of leaves, you may need to mulch multiple times a week, especially if you have large trees that shed consistently. Choose a sunny afternoon with dry leaves for the best results, as dry leaves shred into fine particles more easily after being on the ground for a few days.
Remember to distribute any remaining leaf piles after mulching. Use a leaf blower to spread the clumps throughout your yard, as concentrated leaf piles can hinder the sunlight your grass needs during winter. By mulching leaves, you save time on raking and bagging while providing a natural nutrient source for your lawn year-round.
Certain Tree Species’ Leaves Are Easier to Mulch Than Others
It’s worth noting that certain tree species’ leaves are easier to mulch than others. Ash or maple leaves can be tough for mower blades, so allowing them to dry out for a few days prior to mulching is recommended. On the other hand, maple and oak leaves, once mulched, have been proven to reduce dandelion populations in some grass types, so the extra effort in mulching maple leaves by driving over them multiple times is worthwhile.
Leaves left scattered throughout your lawn and landscape can present numerous issues. A surplus of leaves can obstruct sunlight, potentially damaging the health of your lawn and plants. Whenever possible, it is recommended to mulch as many leaves as you can. However, if your lawn becomes overwhelmed with leaves even after multiple mulching attempts, it may be advantageous to gather and dispose of them at a yard waste site.
So Should You Remove Leaves or Just Mulch Them?
The question remains: Should you remove the leaves or mulch them?
Mulching leaves offers the added benefit of a nitrogen boost as the leaves decompose and that’s not to say you can’t have the leaves mulched as they drop and then have a removal done at the end of fall. Nevertheless, if your primary concern is aesthetics and maintaining a flawless lawn, removing the leaves entirely is the most effective approach. This will also minimize the chances of snow mold and other lawn fungi developing during the winter season.