Lawn Care Guide: Composting & Mulching Leaves

Gloved hand picking up mulch between lettuce plants

When it comes to lawn care, one of the most frustrating (and time-consuming) projects is dealing with autumn leaves. There are many ways that you can handle leaves—raking, mulching, and even composting. But which solution is best for your yard?

In this edition of our lawn care guide series, we’ll discuss each method in detail, including advantages, disadvantages, and best practices.

Let’s start with a common question that homeowners ask us: should I mulch leaves or rake them?

Raking Versus Mulching

Should you mulch leaves or rake them? Well, that depends on a variety of factors, including the condition of your leaves, the tools that you have on hand, and the amount of work that you’re willing to do.

Raking

We won’t go into too much detail about raking, as you’re probably already familiar with this method. However, if you do rake your leaves, do not blow or rake them into the streets. Leaves that are left on the streets can get blown or washed away into sewers, which can then affect local waterways. When you rake, you always want to bag your leaves, even if that option seems more time-consuming. If raking is too physically exhausting or time-consuming, try mulching.

Mulching

Mulching is a very easy way to manage falling leaves, but you must ensure that your leaves aren’t diseased. If you mulch diseased leaves, the disease could spread to nearby plants, as well as your grass. Look out for unusual spots on your leaves—they could be white, brown, or black. If you see those spots on your leaves, don’t mulch them, your best bet is just to rake them.
If your leaves are fine and you want to mulch them, be sure that you blend them into your grass well. You don’t want to put too many leaves in certain areas of your lawn, as that could prevent your grass from getting the nutrients and sunlight it needs to thrive.

Lastly, be sure to mulch leaves with a mower. All you have to do is remove your mower’s grass catcher and run the mower over the leaves until they’re shredded into small, dime-sized pieces. We also recommend applying lawn fertilizer afterwards, as this will help break down the leaves and feed your grass.

Composting

If you’re an avid gardener, you may want to compost your leaves rather than rake or mulch them. Know that with composting, patience is a virtue. Turning leaves into compost doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, the four components of composting are: sunlight, oxygen, time, and a well-balanced mix of carbon and nitrogen. Typically, you will want 30 parts of carbon to one part nitrogen.

So, when composting your leaves, follow these four tips:

  1. Purchase a compost bin (one with a lid to prevent rodents and other pests from accessing it). Check with your city to see if there is a composting program, as you can most likely get a compost bin for free or at a reduced price.
  2. Add soil from your garden or yard to your compost bin first. Soil contains organic material that will be beneficial to your compost, and can even help break down your compost pile faster.
  3. Remember the nitrogen to carbon ratio. Leaves are considered good sources of carbon, while grass, manure, coffee grounds, and old vegetables and fruit are great sources of nitrogen. Mix your leaves with a few nitrogen-rich items. If leaves are wet, let them dry before composting them.
  4. Turn it over/mix your compost at least once a week. In the winter months, you will only need to do it once a month. Remember this takes time. In fact, you may not see immediate results the following spring due to the overall lack of sunlight during the winter months (sunlight increases the composting process).

After composting leaves and nitrogen-rich supplements, including blood meal, manure, veggies, and grass, you’ll be left with a dark, earthy, organic substance that can be used as soil or with gardening soil. It will not only give your plants the nutrients it needs, but also help to retain moisture.

Get Landscape Advice From Design One Today

Taking care of your lawn is a huge undertaking, but our team at Design One strives to make the process as easy for you as possible. We specialize in professional landscape design, and know what it takes to achieve a beautiful, healthier, and greener lawn. If you have questions about composting or mulching leaves, reach out to our team today.

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