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Northwood Outdoor Services

Should I Mulch or Bag My Leaves?

If you are a homeowner in Minnesota with a few or many trees on your property, every autumn you encounter their leaf drop. A decision must be made whether to collect the leaves, or mulch them with your lawn mower. We recommend weighing the different factors before choosing what method will work best for your property.

Mulched Leaves Makes Excellent Fertilizer

One of the main reasons people choose to mow down their leaves is that mulching them eventually turns them into fertilizer. The leaves of deciduous trees contain about two percent nitrogen, which is a vital nutrient for plants. By mulching the leaves that fall from your trees, you can reduce the amount of fertilizer needed.

In the weeks leading towards fall (mid-late September through early October or appropriate as temperatures begin to cool from summer temperatures), gradually lower your mower blades by .5″ each week until you are cutting at a height of approx 2″ – 2.5″. This will help make leaf mulching and clean up easier, while preventing snow mold and other fungus from setting up shop in your lawn.

When the time comes to start mulching the leaves, you should plan to mow and mulch several times throughout the fall. We recommend at least once per week as the leaves are falling, or twice (if your schedule permits). The smaller the leaves are, the easier they will break down into nutrients for the soil beneath your lawn. If you have a large depth of leaves to mulch, it may be beneficial to go over your lawn with the blades set higher or driving over the leaves multiple times to ensure they are chopped up. For best results, mulch the leaves in the afternoon on a sunny day so there is as little moisture as possible, this will make cleaning up your mower easier.

Lastly, there will be small piles of leaves left on top of your grass after mulching. These piles can choke out grass and are unsightly so be sure to use a leaf blower to spread out the clumps and small piles of leaves that are often left behind when mulching leaves.

Reasons to Remove Leaves

The main reason a homeowner would want to remove all their leaves is if the volume is so deep that your grass cannot receive any sunlight when it needs to be storing away energy before winter. This usually occurs when tall trees decide to drop their leaves rather quickly and leaving your lawn covered in leaves 3″-6″ deep. It is best practice to mulch down the leaves, but if a good portion of your lawn is still covered after the mulching process – it would be beneficial to bag them up with your mower and then dispose of the excess leaves in a compost pile.

Best Leaf Types to Mulch

Some tree leaves are better than others when it comes to mulching. Maple and ash leaves can be troublesome to break up compared to oak leaves, but maple and oak leaves have been found to help reduce the population of dandelions on your property.

We believe the best approach to fall leaf work is to consistently mulch the leaves beginning when they start to fall, and mulching each week until there are no more. Then at the conclusion of each mulching spread out the mulched leaves with a leaf blower to allow the decomposition process to take place while still maintaining your lawn’s aesthetics.

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