Do I Have to Clean Up My Leaves in the Fall
The end-of-summer blues may bring some sunseekers down, but many rejoice at the thought of the autumn months. Fall brings with it the ability to wear cozy sweaters and snuggle under fuzzy blankets while sipping warm apple cider. Fall harvest means bounties of pumpkins and other winter goodies, plus we get to enjoy the beautiful color changes of the leaves. People drive hours to seek out the views of rolling hills covered in trees showing off their stunning blend of colors.
Those same leaves eventually drop to the ground, which causes quite a beautiful mess of leaves to clean up every year. It may look beautiful while the colors cover your lawn, but the task of cleaning up the numerous leaves may leave you wondering if it’s actually necessary to rake those leaves. Leaf clean up can be an exhausting task, but it may be worth your while to protect your lawn during the winter, especially those snowy winters. Your arborist experts at Mr. Tree discuss below the pros and cons of leaf clean up so you can decide which is best for your lawn maintenance.
Benefits of Leaf Removal
Removing the built-up fall leaves that have accumulated on your lawn may be a daunting task, but it’s a good idea to remove those leaves, especially if the leaves have created a thick, wet layer on your lawn. This can trap moisture under the winter snow. The risk of your grass growing a fungus under the thick wet leaves is too high to gamble.
Having a thick layer of leaves across your lawn can block sunlight from your grass too, which will inhibit its growth come springtime. Some fallen leaves may be carrying diseases that can spread to your grass and other plants. Removing those leaves from your lawn can prevent this. Your lawn will also look much cleaner, and your property will look cared for if you remove the fallen leaves that have accumulated in your yard.
Best Time of Year to Remove Leaves
Leaf clean up should happen in fall and again in spring. You should remove the leaves from your lawn before the first frost hits. You can rake leaves as they fall, or some prefer to wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees above before they start leaf cleanup. Either way, if the leaves are removed before the first frost, it doesn’t matter which method you choose.
Once the snowy months have passed and spring growth has started, it’s a good idea to rake again to remove any patches of grass that may not have made it through the cold winter months. This helps remove any mold growth that can inhibit your lawn from growing healthy.
How to Remove Leaves
Leaf clean up can be done by raking the leaves into piles to be gathered and removed, or you can use a leaf blower to blow the leaves off of the lawn and into piles to be gathered and removed later. One pro tip is to put a tarp down on the lawn and rake the leaves onto the tarp. The tarp can then be easily moved around the lawn as you complete each area of the yard.
Raking wet leaves can be difficult, as wet leaves can be very heavy, so it’s best to wait for them to dry out a bit before raking them. Leaf blowers will need to be strong enough to blow the leaves, so if you have a thick covering of wet leaves, make sure to purchase a leaf blower that has enough power to blow through the heavy covering. For your safety, always wear ear protection when using a leaf blower.
Once you have gathered the leaves into piles, you can gather them for composting. It’s best not to put the leaves into plastic trash bags meant for the landfills, as leaves produce harmful gasses that build up in landfills. Instead, your city may offer a composting program and will pick up yard waste for their compost piles. If your city doesn’t offer this option, you can easily create a compost pile at home. The EPA offers easy-to-follow instructions on creating a composting pile for your leaves. Leaf compost has many healthy nutrients that are great to use when planting in the spring.
Alternatives to Leaf Removal
For those homeowners who are looking to avoid the exhausting laborious job of leaf cleanup, consider mulching the leaves into your lawn. Leaf mulch provides grass and the soil below with many rich nutrients so it’s a great benefit for your yard. Some leaf types, such as maple leaves, help prevent weed growth, as the nutrients they provide reduce the ability for seeds to germinate effectively.
To mulch leaves, you will need to chop the leaves into tiny pieces. In order to efficiently do this, we recommend using a mulching mower. Mulching mowers are specially designed with a high deck and a mulching blade that chops the leaves multiple times to get those tiny pieces. The leaves are chopped so small that you don’t even notice the lawn has bits of leaves in it. The leaf pieces drop below the grass canopy and are no longer visible once chopped.
If you don’t have a mulching mower, you can use a mulching blade on a regular lawnmower, but it may not chop the pieces as small. That’s because the leaves don’t get chopped multiple times like in a mulching mower, which is specially designed for the leaf pieces to circle through multiple times.
Whichever mower you use, detach the bag and let the leaf pieces blow out of the mower and land on the lawn below. The leaf pieces will drop into the grass canopy and break down over time. If you use a landscaping service, you can request they use a mulching mower and not bag the leaves. If you mulch your leaves in the fall, the leaves will be fully broken down by spring.