Updated on
May 31, 2022

Is it Good to Mulch Leaves Into Your Lawn? Fall Cleanup Tips!

Lawn care
Mulching Leaves

As the fall months roll around, leaves will start to clutter up your lawn. This raises an interesting question. Should you rake them up? Or is it better to start mulching leaves into the lawn? Here is your guide to what to do with fallen leaves.

As the fall months roll around, leaves will start to clutter up your lawn. This raises an interesting question. Should you rake them up? Or is it better to start mulching leaves into the lawn? Here is your guide to what to do with fallen leaves.

What Happens If You Ignore Leaves?

One of the easiest solutions is not to take any action at all, letting the leaves stay on the lawn. It's true that they will break down naturally, releasing nutrients into the soil. But this is a slow process. Sometimes if left whole, leaves will take up to a year to decompose.

The looming issue here is that the leaf cover will be blocking sunlight from getting to your lawn. This can smother the grass, and potentially kill it. Plus, the leaves may trap humidity, increasing the risk of a fungal infection.

Are Mulched Leaves Good for the Grass?

Ignoring the leaves isn't often the right solution. Instead, you should try mulching the leaves into your lawn. There are a few benefits of taking this approach. First, the leaves will contain valuable nutrients, like nitrogen. Because of this, mulching leaves can create a type of natural fertilizer.

According to some independent studies, mulching can also protect your lawn from weeds. The mulched organic matter will fill up gaps between the grass where weeds could grow. This can have a dramatic effect. According to Michigan State University, the prevalence of weeds like crabgrass can be significantly reduced within three years of consistent mulching.

Plus, mulching leaves will save you a lot of time, compared to raking and bagging.

When to Avoid Mulching Leaves Into Your Lawn

While mulching leaves can have a lot of benefits, there are some times when this isn't a good idea. First, as winter is approaching, it's a good idea to avoid mulching leaves. This is the time when the grass is starting to store nutrients for the winter. Because of this, they need plenty of sunlight. Furthermore, according to the University of Minnesota, too much shade during the colder months increases the risk of snow mold. It might also increase the amount of insect damage that is occurring.

Many of these problems can be avoided by starting to mulch in the spring, as temperatures are starting to rise. You can continue throughout the fall. But you will need to stop it at the start of winter.

It's also important to think about the amount of mulch you have. As we'll discuss there is a limit to how many leaves you can mulch.

How to Mulch Leaves

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of when to mulch leaves. Now, let's take a closer look at how this process works.

Thankfully, it's fairly simple. All you need to do is wait for a thin layer of leaves to build up. It shouldn't be more than an inch thick. Then, you can mow over the top. This will shred the leaves, turning them into mulch. If you prefer, you can use a specialized mulching mower. Or you can get mulching blades for your lawn mower.

Make sure that you are using the tallest height setting. You'll need to repeat this procedure every time an inch of leaves has built up on your lawn.

While this is fairly simple, there are a few tips to keep in mind when doing this. First, you'll need to avoid mowing wet leaves. These can clump together, causing damage to small areas of the lawn if left alone too long.

It's also best to shred fallen leaves as finely as possible. This allows them to break down quickly. Because of this, you might need to make two passes with a mulching mower.

Can You Mulch Too Many Leaves Into Your Lawn?

There is a limit to the number of leaves you can mulch. Too many and you will form a thick layer of debris, stopping sunlight from reaching the roots. According to Kansas State University, you can mulch a maximum of six inches of leaves into your lawn.  Of course it's best to do it before it reaches that threshold.

Once you reach this limit, you can still use a mulching mower to break the leaves into small pieces. You can then use a rake to spread them across the lawn. Any excess can be raked into a pile and removed. Alternatively, you can make a second pass with the lawn mower, using the bagging attachment, to suck up the shredded leaves.

Which Leaves Make the Best Mulch

There are some species that will form the best mulch. Oak leaves are the best candidates for mulching. They are easy to break down with a mower. Cedar leaves are a good option, as they take a while to break down. This means that they can be used for mulch, trapping the moisture around your plants. Because of this, cedar leaves have been used as an alternative to hay.

The good news is that all types of chopped leaves will be suitable to use as mulch. They all contain high amounts of nutrients, to support plant growth.

Other Uses For Mulched Leaves

Mulched leaves aren't just suitable for use on your lawn. They can be used in other parts of the garden. For example, you can mix them in with your compost.  This creates an environment for microbes to thrive, breaking down the compost faster.

Final Thoughts

Mulching leaves isn't just a way of saving time on lawn care. It can also be a good way of providing an organic form of fertilizer, adding nitrogen and other important nutrients to the soil. This supports healthy lawn growth. The biggest risk is that you will smother the grass. But as long as you have less than six inches of leaves, this shouldn't be a problem. So, this spring and fall, try adding shredded leaves to your grass to keep your lawn healthy while you avoid raking.