In Michigan, we are very fortunate to have some of the most beautiful autumns of anywhere in the world. As the leaves turn from green to a panorama of yellows, oranges, browns, and reds, it’s almost as if nature turns your yard into a living work of art. This beautiful change is short lived, however, and when the leaves start to fall, it’s time to get to work in order to keep your lawn healthy and looking great for spring. We have assembled leaf cleanup tips to take some of the guesswork and backwork out of leaf cleanup.
When to Start Leaf Cleanup
A handful of leaves won’t cause harm to your lawn. In fact, a few splashes of color on your lawn are one of the most pleasing elements of autumn. When they start to pile up, though, it’s time to remove them. Too many leaves can cover your lawn, which blocks necessary sunlight and compromises the air circulation your grass needs. This is a recipe for a variety of turf diseases. In fact, the sheer weight of the leaves is enough to prevent your grass from growing correctly. A layer of leaves across your yard keep the soil below it moist. This persistent moisture can lead to root rot if not properly addressed. To sum up, if you like your grass and want to have it back in the spring, you simply have to clean up your leaves in the fall.
There are two basic guidelines as to when your leaf cleanup should begin: 1) when leaves cover more than 1/3 of your lawn, or: 2) when you can no longer see the top half of your lawn’s grass blades. Sometimes, we get an unpredictable cold snap that forces many leaves to drop over the course of a few days. In these cases, you can wait until the entire lawn has a single leaf layer of cover. At that point, though, you need to get right to the cleanup. You don’t want to leave your lawn in that condition for more than a few days.
You’ll want to get to start your cleanup the next rainfall. Whether your modus operandi is to rake the leaves or mow them, both become much more difficult when the leaves are wet. Wet leaves clog up rakes, leaf vacuums, and lawn mowers alike.
Can I Mow My Leaves Instead of Raking Them?
In short: yes, you can mow your leaves instead of raking them. There are several ways to go about this, so let’s go over them. If you are a composter, mowing your leaves chops them up into smaller pieces, which speeds up the decomposition process in your compost pile. It should go without saying, but you’ll want to use a leaf catcher for this; otherwise, you’ll have to rake up the leaf bits, which just creates more work than raking whole leaves would have.
If you are not a composter, you can still let the little chopped up leaves decompose right on the lawn. You’ll want to make sure that your mower is throwing out leaf pieces that are about the size of a dime or little less. If you have particularly large leaves and/or a relatively thick layer of leaves, you may have to mow over them more than once to ensure you have chopped the pieces small enough. When you are done mowing, you want to see about 50% of your grass through the chopped up leaf pieces. The more grass you can see, the more quickly your leaf pieces will decompose.
When those chopped up bits of leaves finally settle down into the grass, microbes commence the decomposition process. This decomposition process unleashes nitrogen, which is much like that found in fall-time fertilizer. So, mowing over your leaves and allowing them to naturally decompose on the lawn will enrich the soil under your lawn, leading to a healthy, lush lawn come spring.
If you have leaves that leathery and thick, you should rake those up or collect them in a grass catching bag when you mow. They don’t decompose as quickly as needed when left on the lawn, but will still do just fine in a compost pile.
Gather Leaves for Community Pick Up
Many communities have leaf pickup programs wherein they will pick up your bagged leaves for disposal. The thing is, you can fill a LOT of bags with what seems like relatively few leaves. You can downsize that leaf pile by using a leaf blower/vacuum with a built in shredder.
If you are looking for a leaf blower/vacuum with a shredder, you’ll want to check out the reduction ratio. For instance, if the reduction ratio is 10:1, the shredder will reduce 10 bags of leaves down to 1 bag. Just think of how much effort that will take off your back! If you have a smallish yard, a handheld leaf vacuum is a great option. If your lawn is larger, you may want to stick with a mower and grass catching bag to do the leaf reduction for you.
We hope you can put a few of these pointers to work for you this season. And remember, for commercial grounds maintenance services, feel free to contact E.P.M. online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today