As autumn draws to a close, leaves falling on your lawn is as inevitable as the nights drawing in. But what is the best practice in dealing with this difficult annual lawn care issue?
Realistically, you have three options in dealing with leaves on your lawn:
Option 1: Just “leave” them on your lawn!
Leaving fallen leaves on your lawn is not recommended. Some may argue that in nature, no-one is there to clear the leaves away! However, the difference we have in the field of domestic lawn care is that the grass in the natural environment has evolved on the open plains and in meadows, where trees are either scarce, or the grass is allowed to grow long enough so that leaves fall between the blades of the grass. A modern, maintained lawn is very different to a natural meadow, and the modern grass species found in a modern lawn are much more delicate than their natural ancestors.
Lawn grass needs light to survive, and this is especially important throughout the winter months when the sun is low, dim and the days are short. Leaves act as a roof and block out all of the light trying to get down to the grass plants underneath. They then gradually turn yellow and die.
If you leave the leaves on the lawn, you may find dead areas of lawn come the spring time, and this may be costly to repair.
Option 2: “Mulch” the leaves into your lawn.
The second option is to leave them on your lawn, but help them to break down much more quickly into the soil by chopping them up into much smaller pieces (a process called “mulching”). This can be done with your normal mower, but some mower manufacturers help this process by providing special mulching blades for their machines.
Mulching the leaves into your lawn is a great idea, and I do recommend it, because it returns much needed organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Natural, organic nutrients can be hard to come by in the soil of a modern lawn. Great soil is the key to a great lawn and mulching the leaves into it will help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the soil and it will improve the overall texture of the soil which will help it to resist moisture loss, improve the transpiration of important gasses down to the roots and give the soil a boost of valuable nitrogen.
The problem with mulching leaves into your lawn is that it needs to be done regularly while the leaves are falling, usually around once a week. If you don’t have time to do this or the weather is unfavourable, (and in Manchester, that is likely!) then the leaves will build up and you will have a problem mulching them effectively. If this occurs, you are much better removing them as soon as you can.
Option 3: Sweep, blow or rake to remove the leaves on your lawn.
The final option is to remove the leaves. This is the most recommended method of dealing with leaves on your lawn, as it removes any possibility of them covering and killing your grass. It is best to prevent the leaves from lying on the grass for more than about a week, as the grass will start to suffer after this time. Little and often is the best method with leaf removal.
Once you have piled all of your leaves up, you can either take them to the tip as green waste, put them in your green bin for council collection, or, I recommend spreading them out over other areas of your garden, such as on the veg patch or in the flower borders. This will give the soil in these areas a fantastic mulch, provide an ideal habitat for all sorts of beneficial creatures and will rot down naturally, leaving no mess.
Lawnscience (South Manchester) Ltd