Fall colors make good mulch

Mulching leaves into your lawn is a good way to add nutrients, reduce yard waste and save time and money.

Mulching is an eco-friendly way to handle fall leaf clean up.

Mulching is an eco-friendly way to handle fall leaf clean up.

Fall in Michigan is a great time. There’s the cool, crisp air, sunny, blue skies and the beautiful fall foliage – as long as the color is on the trees. But the fall colors signal that those beautiful leaves will soon be all over your lawn. And what comes down must then come up in the form of raking, collecting, bagging and disposal. Or does it?

If you start early and continue often, there is an alternative to the raking, bagging and disposing of all the leaf waste that comes in fall. You can mulch those leaves back into your lawn.

Michigan State University research has shown several eco-friendly benefits to mulching leaves back into the grass: quicker spring green up using less fertilizer and fewer weeds! The small decomposing leaf pieces provide nutrients to your lawn over the winter for quicker greening in the spring. They also cover any bare spots in the lawn that are good places for weed seeds to germinate. 

To mulch the leaves into your lawn, set your mower at its highest setting and mow as usual. Then mow again in the other direction making a criss-cross or ninety-degree pattern. There will be some leaf residue left on the lawn but it will continue to break down and fall through the grass to reduce future weeds and provide those essential nutrients. After all, fall is the best time to feed your lawn. After several years, this mulching process can result in almost complete elimination of dandelions and crabgrass is some cases. 

Under normal conditions, you should only need to mow your lawn weekly. However, if a heavy wind occurs, it may require you to mulch the leaves more frequently. Leaves can be mulched up to approximately six inches deep and have good results depending on the type of lawn mower you are using. 

Another option for decreasing leaf waste for disposal is to use your mower to mulch and bag the leaves then use the ground leaves as mulch around flower beds, trees, shrubs and in vegetable gardens. This also will provide nutrients to these areas and reduce weed germination making next spring that much easier. 

Try mulching those leaves for less waste at the curb this fall and an improved lawn next spring. You may save some money in the process!

For more information on mulching, see Michigan State University Extension’sSmart Gardening” series. Additional information about leaf mulching is available from Michigan State University Extension.

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