Fall is the perfect time to make your yard look lovely with fresh mulch. Here are some easy tricks for making it easier and more efficient than ever before!
Mulching leaves is a great way to recycle your garden’s organic material and it also helps prevent the spread of disease. However, there are some disadvantages to mulching in that it can create an excess of compost which can cause soil erosion. Read more in detail here: pros and cons of mulching leaves.
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So you’ve been dreading raking leaves off your yard this autumn, and someone has advised that you mulch them instead. But, precisely, how do you mulch leaves?
Leaf mulch is leaf litter that has been broken down and placed over your grass or flower beds. By mowing over leaves with a lawnmower, you can shred them into mulch. A hand mulcher, stand-alone mulcher, or string trimmer are other options for breaking them down.
Mulching leaves rather than raking them for collection has several advantages for you as a homeowner, your yard, and local animals. So, let’s look at these advantages and how you may mulch leaves in your yard.
Why Mulch Rather Than Rake Your Lawn
Leaves mat, forming a barrier that prevents air and water from passing through. This barrier will strangle your grass, but shredding the leaves will break it up, allowing air, water, and light to pass through.
Mulching is the term for the process of shredding leaves. If you shred the leaves finely enough, you may mulch as much as 6 inches of leaves into your grass.
Leaves are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals, with 50 to 80 percent of a tree’s nutrients and minerals ending up in its leaves, which are eventually fallen to the ground. Mulching allows you to restore these nutrients and minerals to the soil instead of throwing them away.
Leaves are broken down by microbes and earthworms, which restore nutrients to the soil without compromising lawn quality or performance. Some leaves, such as those of the honey locust, contain a lot of nitrogen, which helps plants develop faster.
Mulching has various additional advantages, including:
- Sugar maple leaves, for example, inhibit the development of broadleaf weeds like dandelions. This eliminates the need to weed or use herbicides.
- When you mow the leaves with the grass, the carbon-rich leaf shreds combine with the nitrogen-rich grass clippings, causing both to break down faster than they would on their own.
- Mulching leaves decreases the amount of leaves by roughly a tenth, making it much easier to dispose of them.
- Mulching saves you time and effort since it is integrated into your normal mowing routine rather than being a separate time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
- Leaf mulch enhances the soil’s capacity to retain moisture, reducing the need to water.
- Leaf mulch acts as a temperature buffer, keeping the soil colder in the summer and warmer in the winter, which protects the roots of plants.
- Leaf mulches may aid in soil erosion reduction.
- Mulching, rather than raking and bagging, saves money and reduces the effect of plastic rubbish bags on the environment.
- Many butterfly and moth species overwinter as eggs or pupae in leaf litter.
- Mulched leaves are excellent for adding to your compost pile because they provide ‘browns,’ or carbon-rich material, which is commonly lacking in compost heaps.
- Mulching reduces the environmental cost of municipal collection and the quantity of yard trimmings that wind up in landfills, increasing the life of the landfills and saving taxpayer funds.
Mulching’s Potential Drawbacks and How to Avoid Them
Mulching has a number of possible drawbacks. However, we are here to show you how to prevent the majority of these drawbacks.
- If you’re using a rotary mower, you’ll have to mow every four days, and you’ll have to make many passes. This, however, is probably less labor than raking or blowing leaves and keeping track of pickup days.
- Dust and debris from dried leaves may irritate your eyes and lungs. Wearing goggles and a dust mask is recommended for your safety.
- Natural herbicides found in black walnut and eucalyptus leaves prevent seeds, especially grass seeds, from developing. Make sure you don’t mulch any of these species’ leaves.
- Pine needles are likewise ineffective because they decay too slowly and suffocate your lawn. Pine needles must be scraped or blown away.
- If you have a lot of trees, the mulched leaves may pile up too thickly on the lawn and suffocate it, preventing light and air from reaching the grass and soil. Attach a bagger to your mower and use the mulch as a winter mulch for shrubs in your beds.
- Mulch that is too thick might give shelter for burrowing pests like voles. Make careful to get rid of any extra mulch.
- Mulch on the lawn that is too thick might inhibit the grass from storing carbohydrates in the autumn. Make careful to remove any extra mulch; we provide instructions on how to do so.
- It may take multiple passes to break down ash and maple leaves, which are more difficult to mulch than oak leaves.
- The idea that oak leaves are acidic and would reduce your soil’s pH is a misconception, according to Michigan State University, which demonstrated that mulching oak leaves into a lawn for six seasons had no effect on its pH.
- If your grass is still performing badly after mulching, you may need to fertilize it with a fertilizer that promotes beneficial bacteria.
When Should You Mulch Your Leaves?
A few leaves on your lawn aren’t an issue, but too many will obstruct sunlight, restrict air circulation, and keep the soil too wet. As a consequence, development is hindered, and illnesses such as snow mold develop.
Mulch if you can’t see the grass blades’ growth tips or if the leaves cover more than a third of your yard. A sudden cold snap may cause a large amount of leaf fall, which you may let for a few days until the yard is almost covered, but not much longer.
Don’t wait until it starts to rain. Wet leaves are more difficult to mow and may clog collection systems.
Using a Lawn Mower to Mulch Leaves
You may use a mulching mower, which will trim your lawn, chop the fallen leaves into a fine mulch, and return the mulch to the soil all at the same time. You may also use a rotary mower, however you may need to make many passes.
You can alter your lawnmower if it does not already have a bent mulching blade to churn the leaves into tiny pieces. Purchase a conversion kit from your local home improvement store or the manufacturer of your mower.
A mulching mower, on the other hand, has curved, serrated mulching blades and baffles beneath the deck that circulates the shredded leaves (or grass clippings) numerous times to finely chop them.
The finely chopped mulch is then pushed into the grass surface by the wind beneath the baffling.
If you need to handle a big amount of leaves in a short amount of time, we suggest investing in a mulching mower. A regular rotary mower should suffice in all other cases.
If you’re afraid to invest in yet another instrument, keep in mind that a mulching mower may also be used for conventional lawn cutting. Every time you mow your lawn, the grass clippings will give a natural 4-1-2 fertilizer.
Start the autumn season by setting your mower to its normal height and mowing on a regular basis. Raise your mower height to its highest setting when the leaves begin to fall in earnest, and mow once or twice a week.
Shred the leaves into pieces about the size of a dime, about 1/2 inch in diameter.
Mulch the lawn to a depth of about 1/4 inch, leaving the grass blades visible and erect. For a few days, the grass may seem brownish; but, as the mulch breaks down, the lawn will revert to a beautiful green.
If you have too much mulch, spread it from thickly mulched regions to thinly mulched areas, or gather it for use in your beds or compost. Mulching your grass and mulching your beds should be done alternately.
You may mulch leaves in a variety of ways using your mulching mower:
Mulching Leaves with a Side Discharge
If the grass is long and moist, and the leaf cover is wet, use side discharge (or particularly heavy). The leaves will either be mulched into the turf or shredded into small bits for subsequent collection using the bagger attachment.
Mow in stripes or concentric rings to reduce the discharge from the preceding pass. You should cut and re-cut the leaves in any case.
Setting up a Mulch for Mulching Leaves
Use the mulch setting if the grass is a normal height and the leaves are dry or very slightly damp.
Close the side-discharge port and insert the mulch plug into the mower. Mow the grass again, this time at a 90-degree angle to the first, shredding the leaves completely and mulching them into the lawn.
Mulched Leaves in Bags
You may bag your mulch for disposal at the boundary of your property or apply it to your shrubs for winter mulch if the grass is of a typical height and the leaves are dried.
As you proceed, dump the mulched grass clippings and leaves into a small tarp or into paper leaf-collection bags.
A Mulching Mower’s Features to Look for
A mulching lawnmower must have the following features:
- Self-propelled – lawn mowers are heavy, and they’ll be considerably heavier when the bag is full with shredded leaves and grass clippings.
- Rear-wheel drive — shredded leaf bags weigh down the rear of the mower, lifting the front wheels and causing them to lose grip.
- Shredding leaves need a strong engine. Purchase a mower with a strong engine.
- A high-lift mulching blade with aggressive serrations — a conventional blade doesn’t move enough air and lacks the serrations of a specialist leaf mulching blade. A regular blade may be used, but you’ll have to make a lot more passes.
- A good dust-filtering bag — although not a replacement for wearing a dust mask, a good dust-filtering bag will keep the dust from whirling while mowing leaves.
Mulching Leaves in Other Ways
If you don’t want to spend the money on a lawnmower that can mulch your leaves, there are a few other options.
Fill a trash can approximately three-quarters full of leaves, insert your string trimmer in, and turn it on to shred the leaves. To keep the line from breaking, move it between the layers of leaves, keeping it away from the sides.
When utilizing this procedure, make sure you cover your ears and eyes.
Leaf mulchers are also available in portable and stand-alone versions.
Using a portable mulcher that can also be used as a leaf blower or switching to a leaf vacuum that shreds and gathers the leaves in an attached bag for use as mulch is a common alternative. They may be cordless or have an electric cable, and they may be powered by gas or battery power.
Stand-alone mulchers have the appearance of a wood chipper and are installed in one location in your yard. You’ll have to collect the leaves (which is why we don’t advocate this choice since it’s more effort), then throw them in the hopper and let it shred them into the collecting bag underneath.
Making Mulch Out of Leaf Mold
Making leaf mold is another approach to mulch leaves.
The soft layer of rotting leaves seen just above the earth in woods is known as leaf mold. It provides nutrients to the ground as it decomposes, enhancing soil structure and nourishing plants.
It’s a terrific mulch for the garden and can hold up to 500 percent of its weight in water, making it an excellent water-retentive material.
To create it, build a circular bin out of chicken wire or snow fencing, then fill it with dampened leaves. The leaf mold will be ready to use in the spring or summer after that.
Raking leaves isn’t the most enjoyable way to spend an autumn weekend. Mulching should be included into your normal mowing routine to enjoy the advantages of free time and a healthier lawn.
You’ll save money on disposable garbage bags while also helping the environment.
The “benefits of mulching leaves” is a process that allows the leaves to break down and decompose. The benefits of mulching are many, including preventing weed growth in your garden and reducing soil erosion.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is mulching leaves a good idea?
A: Mulching leaves is a great idea and environmentally friendly. By shredding your gardens leaves, you can help the soil retain moisture, reduce weed growth, and prevent erosion by restoring natural topsoil to bare ground.
What is the best way to mulch leaves?
A: To mulch leaves, you should use a blower to blow the leaves into your yard or compost bin. You can also put them directly in the trash and add some water so they decompose quicker.
Is it better to mulch leaves or bag them?
A: It is best to leave leaves in the garden and bag them after you have raked them up.
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