Okay, so autumn rolls around and your yard is covered in dead leaves. What do you think when you look out your window at this scene?
A. Ugh! An afternoon wasted raking and bagging those darn things.
B. Ugh! There goes my money into the hands of the neighborhood kid who will end up raking and bagging those darn things.
C. Yes! Free fertilizer for my lawn.
If you answered “C,” then you have the mind of an organic yard farmer. Congratulations!
I was just out taking care of the layer of dead leaves on my lawn, and by “taking care of” it, I mean I was running my mulch mower over them. And as I’m doing it, I can’t help but be amazed that trees actually give us FREE FERTILIZER! And to think– people actually rake their leaves into piles and put them in bags for the trash men, and then they waste money by buying and applying insane amounts of dangerous toxins (like Scotts). How backwards are we as a society when the norm is to dispose of real fertilizer (that is given to us free of charge) and waste money on chemicals that actually damage our lawns.
Anyway, the mulch mower chops the leaves into tiny bits, which then break down into compost and feed the grass. And if your lawn has been pumped full of beneficial microbes via Worm Tea all season, as ours has, then those chopped up leaves will break down into food for your grass in no time flat. And when they get broken down, it allows the lawn to store up carbohydrates for the winter, making it stronger and quicker to green up in the spring.
Now, honestly, mulching your leaves isn’t going to be enough nutrients to feed your lawn for the season, but it’s still silly not to mulch them into your lawn. One, it’s easier than raking them into the street or putting them into piles. Two, it’s better than having trucks pick them up to put them into community compost piles. And three, like I said before, it’s a free source of nitrogen.
If you don’t have a mulch mower, just take the bag off so that they get chopped and returned to the turf. It may take two or three passes to adequately chop them up, and it’s still good to run a rake over the turf afterward in order to spread the mulch around and make sure it falls through the grass blades to the soil below.
And here’s a tip for mowing in general: You should be mulch mowing all year long. Take that bag off your mower and let the chopped-up grass clippings (as well as leaves from the trees) fall to your turf and feed your grass. It’s absolutely silly to bag that stuff up. It’s free fertilizer, for Pete’s sake.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.