Raking Vs. Mulching: What to Do With your Fall Leaves

Tree with red leaves in front yard

Have you been questioning the typical lawn care routine in the last few years? You wouldn’t be alone. Bagging up fallen leaves in plastic and sending them off to who knows where has been falling out of favor recently. But what do you do with your leaves now?

Every season, advocates of letting leaves lay where they fall speak out. Their reasons include letting nutrients return to the soil, giving pollinators a place to overwinter in urban spaces, and simply gaining more time to yourself. These are all great ideas but letting leaves overwinter on your grass has its own set of problems. Mulching may be the answer to all of your fall leaf quandaries. Read on and learn more about the hows and whys of the raking vs mulching leaves debate.

What Happens if You Leave Leaves on The Grass?

Although you might be tempted to let the fall leaves stay on the grass for the winter, it’s rarely a good idea to let the leaves just lay there. And it’s not because your neighbors might complain.

Are Fallen Leaves Good for the Grass?

Fallen leaves have nutrients that are great for enriching the soil. When they biodegrade naturally, they leave behind carbon, nitrogen, and other organic matter essential to plant growth. Worms love this stuff. They pull it into the soil and leave behind worm castings that do even more to improve your lawn. 

Why You Shouldn’t Let Fall Leaves Cover Your Grass

Although there are benefits from fallen leaves, it’s a different story when leaves are just covering the lawn. It takes leaves a long time to break all the way down. When they fully cover the lawn, they limit the amount of sunlight and oxygen getting to the grass, essential elements for healthy grass, especially if you’ve recently planted grass seed. Large clumps of leaves can also create soggy piles can kill grass and turn your yard into mud, which is also less-than-ideal when you’re building up a lawn.

If you want to keep some leaves whole rather than mulching them to help pollinators overwinter, consider stashing a pile or two in a secret place. Try putting them behind your shed or creating a pollinator haven underneath your bushes. That way your helpful neighborhood insects and your grass both can thrive!

Is it Okay to Leave Leaves on the Lawn Over Winter?

No, leaves left on the lawn during fall will soon become frozen clumps during the winter. These clumps will become soggy piles in the spring. That’s why we recommend mulching your leaves this Fall. Your grass will thank you!

Raking vs. Mulching Leaves:

Do I Have to Rake my Leaves?

Many, if not most, homeowners rake the leaves into piles and haul them away. However, mulching leaves into your lawn is a much better idea. This way, your lawn retains the nutrients and stays neat and tidy.

What is Mulching Leaves?

Mulching is the process of chopping leaves into smaller, more easily broken down pieces. Mulched leaves can add nutrients to your yard without causing unsightly clumps of leaves or blocking air and oxygen from reaching your grass. The best part? It’s much easier to do than most people realize. 

How Do You Mulch Leaves?

Mulching leaves into a lawn can be done with any rotary-action mower, though of course, some will do a better job than others. We’ll go into what to look for in a good mulching mower below. Use the side discharge on your mower to spread the clippings over your lawn. Areas of especially heavy mulch deposit might require you to spread the debris by hand, but most of the work will be done by your lawn equipment.

Why Should I Mulch my Leaves Instead of Raking Them?

Mulched leaves are a great way to keep the nutrients in your yard without sacrificing aesthetics. By breaking the leaves into pieces so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye, you can keep everything looking neat. At the same time, these smaller pieces will break down faster, meaning you’ll get more nutrients at a faster rate—something that’s ideal when you’re prepping your lawn for winter.

What’s a Good Lawn Mower For Mulching?

Toro® TimeCutter® riding mowers with a Recycler Kit accessory is a great choice, or if you have a Toro® lawn mower with a Recycler® cutting system.

By adding on the Toro Recycler system, you create your own natural fertilizer. This patented system cuts grass clippings and mulches leaves 6-8 times, turning them into a fine nutrient-rich mulch to feed your lawn all season. 

The secret to mulching lies in the unique ‘kickers’ and baffles that direct clippings back into the blades to be re-cut before being released into your lawn. The excellent clipping control means you can evenly disperse the mulch.

Is Mulching Better Than Raking? You Choose.

Now that you know the benefits of mulching leaves onto your lawn, we hope you’ll try it this year. And when you’re done taking care of your fall leaves, you can return here knowing that Toro YardCare has articles about landscaping and lawn care for every season. Learn about everything from snowblowers to taking care of your lawn in spring. No matter the weather, Toro is here for you!

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