Fall is rolling along. As you look around, many deciduous trees are beginning to shed their leaves. Before long your yard will have its own coat of many colors. Or will it?
Leaf removal is critical to successful sports turf management such as golf courses and ball fields. Their playing surfaces typically do not include red, orange, and yellow leaves. As homeowners you are also turf managers and leaf removal is important, too. A layer of leaf cover on grass blocks sunlight, which is necessary for photosynthesis and traps moisture increasing potential for diseases.
Now before you race out to the shed and grab the rake or blower, take a moment and consider other options. Consider mulching the fallen leaves in place as a part of your regular mowing schedule.
You can save labor, time, and improve your turf. Once per week is usually sufficient but supplement mulching may be necessary after a windy day. Mulching will be easier if you have a riding mower but a walk behind will also mulch leaves. If your mower has a mulching kit, meaning a mulching blade and a cover plate over the side discharge, it will be easier. Regular blades and side discharge mowers will require additional passes to ensure the leaves have been chopped. Mow the leaves while they are still damp to reduce the dust. If you cannot mow the leaves until after they are dry, keep the air filter on the mower clean so your mower performs optimally. There will be an obvious residue of leaf litter left on the lawn but it will disappear in a few days and be unnoticeable by spring.
Numerous university studies have concluded mulching leaves in place improves turf quality. Mulched leaves will break down and return to the soil improving the organic content. Please note: Mulched leaves are not a substitute for nitrogen fertilizer.
Leaf rakes and blowers will remove leaves but require you to store the leaves and eventually remove them. Rakes can damage and even remove young grass still developing its root system. So if you recently seeded or are planning to seed soon, be careful+ about raking.
One way or another leaves have to be managed so consider leaving them alone.
Larry’s timely tip: If you seeded and fertilized already, wait 30 days before applying your second round of fertilizer. The blend 16-0-8 is an excellent choice.