Do Leaves “Suffocate” a Lawn?
The old myth is that leaves will suffocate the lawn and starve it of...what exactly? Lawns make it through winter covered in snow, so they can go without the sun. Rain will still make it to its roots, and they'll still get the nutrients they need from your soil. What's the danger then? Leaves won't kill or suffocate your lawn, but under certain conditions, they can grow mold that will.
Lawns are fine under leaves or under the snow. The combination of the two is what's dangerous to your lawn. If you let your leaves lie there long enough to get covered up by snow, your lawn can grow a nasty fungal disease called snow mold. You'll see gray and even pink patches come springtime, and your lawn will be decimated.
Here are three options for what you can do instead:
1. Rake Your Leaves
Does this mean you have to rake your leaves before winter? It's one of a few options. Raking the leaves up clears the lawn and certainly makes it look nice. After all, those dry crunchy leaves that look so good when they've freshly fallen aren't so attractive once they've started decaying and been rained on. You don't want to rake wet leaves either. Try to do that and the only way to get the leaves going is to start scraping up grass and gouging your lawn – that will damage it.
The best time to rake is when the leaves are still crisp and dry. Take a look at the weather coming up and make sure it gets done before a rainy day. If you can't do it yourself, contact a landscaping company that can do it efficiently for you.
2. Mulch Your Leaves
One alternative is to mow your leaves. You'll need a mulching mower to do this, or you'll want to attach a mulching blade to your regular mower. A mulching mower has a higher deck and different shapes that allow the blade to spin multiple times and cut the material into smaller pieces. A mulching blade has serrated edges and is sold at hardware stores.
Mow and mulch when the Fall leaves are still crisp and dry and you'll easily crunch them into little pieces. Then just leave them where they are. This is ready-made mulch for your lawn! It can help prevent weeds from growing and add nutrients to the soil.
Or you can use a leaf blower, lawn vacuum, or collecting bag on the mower itself to put your new leaf mulch in your garden beds.
Just make sure to pick up anything that's still on the lawn so you don't mow over anything. It's easy to see something solid you don't want going through the mower during the spring and summer. When your lawn's covered in leaves, something dangerous might be covered up, so do a once-over right before you mow.
3. Compost Your Leaves
Yet another alternative is to rake and collect your leaves, and then compost them. (Or use a mower that collects the leaves as you mow – some landscaping companies have this.) If you choose to compost, you'll want to make sure the leaves are broken down some and that you regularly turn them over in the compost. Don't just leave them there all winter untouched or they won't break down and they'll grow fungus.
If you go this route, composting is more than just tossing your leaves in a pile out back. Compost requires some attention to turn into something useful – but once it is, it can provide a ton of nutrients to your plants.
A Few More Tips
A few quick tips: If you use your leaves for mulch, use them now. This will let them biodegrade before the winter. Don't save them up and wait till spring or as they biodegrade months down the road, they'll sap nutrients from the soil. Unless you're going to fully compost your leaves, don't wait if you're going to use them.
Remember the weather! A day delayed is a headache and an extra few hours taking care of soggy leaves on a damp ground instead of nice dry ones that rake up quickly. The same holds true for mowing. You can't easily chop and mulch what's still stuck to the ground.
If you can't or don't want to handle your leaves, or if you have an especially large lawn that would just take way too much time – call specialists in. Landscapers have all the specialized tools needed to get it done quickly in whatever form you want – collected for you and out of mind, mulched and spread on your garden beds, or ready for compost. If you need help, contact Garrett's Landscape in Hendersonville, NC.