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CAC Says Mow, Don't Blow Your Leaves

Mulch Mowing Leaves BeforeMowing leaves into tiny pieces on your lawn--also known as mulch mowing-- is healthier for your lawn and soil than piling or bagging them to be removed. Leaf-mulched lawns often need less fertilizer and water. It is also better for our environment because the pollutants from leaf blowers and trucks that must haul away the leaves are avoided. And, leaves piled in the streets can be a thing of the past! Homeowners around Scarsdale have been mulch mowing leaves for many years with great results.

Here are the facts:

Mulch mowing does not harm your lawn—it makes your lawn healthier. Decomposing mulched leaves nestle between the individual blades of grass where weeds might otherwise germinate. Once the small bits of leaves settle-in, microbes and worms start breaking them down. The nutrients from the decomposed leaves enhance the soil while also inhibiting weed growth.

Done correctly, mulch mowing should not make your lawn look messy.
As long as the mulch mowing creates pieces about the size of a dime or smaller, the shredded leaves quickly settle into the lawn without making it look messy. It is important that the leaves left on a lawn without shredding them can smother grass—be sure to mulch mow them!.

It’s easy.
Mulch mowing can be done with any standard homeowner or commercial lawn mower. Simply mow over the fallen leaves. All types of leaves can be mulch mowed. However, pine needles, which are acidic, may change the ph balance of your lawn if mulch mowed in large quantities; consider using pine needles as a mulch around the base of pine trees.

All landscapers have the equipment to mulch mow.
If you have a landscaper, ask them to mulch mow your leaves. Many, but not all, landscapers have experience mulch mowing. If your landscaper is new to mulch mowing, the following are key points for them to know:

Equipment:
To help shred the leaves into small pieces, it’s recommended that a mulching blade be used. This type of blade, which has grooves to shred the leaves, is inexpensive and available for any type of mower. Mulching kits, which include additional attachments beyond just a mulching blade, are also available at any mower distributor and can be fitted to commercial mowers.

Mulching Technique:
Mowing the leaves in a circular pattern, rather than back and forth in lines, will result in smaller pieces of leaves which decompose more quickly and will avoid “striping lines.”

Time: It should take your landscaper no additional time to mulch mow leaves rather than blowing them to the curb. In fact, if done correctly, it actually saves time. It’s just as easy (or easier) to mulch mow than it is to blow leaves curbside.

Cost:
Mulch mowing leaves should not cost more than having leaves blown to the curb or bagged. There are many landscapers in Scarsdale that have been mulch mowing properties for years at no additional cost. If your landscaper claims it will be more time-consuming, ask them to try it for a few weeks. They will see it takes no extra time.

If you mow your own lawn, just keep mowing!
You can continue using your mower without installing a mulching blade, but sometimes you may have to go over certain areas of your lawn twice to make sure the leaves have been cut into small pieces. Better yet, you can install a mulching blade yourself or bring it to any local mower shop to install. Try to mulch leaves once a week so the piles don’t build up too high for your mower, especially during the heavy drop of leaves. Remember to keep the blade sharpened and the deck height adjusted as needed.

Large piles of leaves will become markedly smaller when mulch mowed.
Shredding piles of leaves significantly reduces the volume of leaves. What looks like a huge leaf pile will shred into tiny pieces and quickly settle into your lawn. Even if you need to put some leaves to the curb during the heavy leaf drop, any reduction in leaves put curbside benefits our environment.

Excess mulched leaves can be placed in your garden beds.
Leaf mulch can be placed into garden beds to help prevent weed growth, to conserve moisture and reduce sprinkler usage, and to provide a protective layer in winter. Shredded leaves look great, are a healthy addition to your yard, and will save you the cost of buying wood mulch. Remember, to avoid damaging trees and plants, never place mulch directly against a tree trunk or shrub and never pile mulch more than 2”- 3” high in a garden bed.

Leaf mulch mowing benefits our local landscape, reduces the number of truck trips in our community, and gets large piles of leaves off our streets.

If you have any questions or comments, email Scarsdale’s Conservation Advisory Council

Leaf Mulch Mowing Resources

Scarsdale Leaf Mulch mowing tutorial: Link https://www.scarsdale.com/424/Leaf-Mulch-Mowing

Educational panel with landscapers and representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

 

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