Don’t sweep your leaves to the curb! Mulch them back into your lawn or garden

Mulching leaves back into your lawn will provide a natural source of nutrients that will improve the growth of your lawn.

Save time and hassle of raking leaves by simply mulching them into your lawn, improving your lawn's growth and health. Photo: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension.

Save time and hassle of raking leaves by simply mulching them into your lawn, improving your lawn's growth and health. Photo: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension.

As leaves pile up in your yard, consider recycling them back into your lawn. Michigan State University Extension turf specialists have determined that simply going over the fallen leaves with your mower or a specialized mulching mower is a smart gardening practice that saves you money and reduces weeds. Why sweep them to the curb when you make a few trips over them with your mower and at the same time, add a natural source of nutrients to your lawn that will make it healthier?

Smart gardening practices are more sustainable: you can continue using this practice as long as you have trees and the leaves continue to fall. You will not need to apply as much fertilizer, organic or inorganic, as the leaves will provide additional nutrients to the soil once they decompose.

You can use your mower or a specialized mulching mower to grind up the leaves into smaller pieces. Be sure you go over the leaves a number of times, making sure they are broken down into small pieces. This way the leaves will not mat together, but will settle down into the turf and be decomposed by valuable microorganisms within the soil. Check out this mulching leaves into the turf video to see how it’s done.

A healthier lawn is more resilient to weeds, insects and diseases, and requires less water inputs. If you have many trees and just too many leaves fall for you to mow, collect the mulched leaves every other mowing and put them over your cleaned out vegetable beds. Apply a 3-to-6-inch layer of mulched leaves on the vegetable garden soil. This mulch will reduce the chance of topsoil erosion and will add valuable organic material that microorganisms will continue to use throughout this fall, winter and spring as shelter and food. Next spring, you can lightly turn this mulch into the soil or plant directly into it or beneath it, depending upon whether you are seeding or transplanting. Continue this practice yearly, and you will be adding valuable organic material that improves your soil’s structure and thus, its ability to hold water and air.

You can also mulch landscape beds layering 3 to 6 inches over your plantings.

MSU Extension Home Lawns has more information on smart gardening for lawns. If you’re planning to install a new lawn or change your current one, consider reading “Smart lawns for pollinators.”

For more information on a wide variety of smart gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website or contact MSU Extension’s Lawn and Garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

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