Can Fall Leaves Kill Grass?
According to most lawn care experts, allowing fall leaves to remain on your lawn over winter will ensure that you spend the early weeks of spring reseeding said lawn. When left unattended, fallen leaves will accumulate and form a dense mass that can damage or kill grass and plants. Tangled leaves reduce water evaporation and block sunlight. These damp, moist conditions encourage mold, fungus, and other diseases to grow. In less than a year, it they can easily wipe out a once healthy lawn. Under dry conditions, piles of fallen leaves can pose a fire hazard.
So what is the most effective method of dealing with fallen fall leaves?
Well, you have two main options: mulching and composting.
Mulching Fallen Leaves
Today, most fallen leaves are mulched with mulching lawn mowers. These unique mowers are equipped with the features and power needed to shred leaf debris into small bits. This natural form of mulch can be beneficial to your lawn because it will eventually decompose into a compost that is abundant in nutrients, like nitrogen. Leaves should be mulched regularly throughout the fall to prevent buildup from occurring.
Leaf mulch tends to decompose more quickly in the early to mid-fall when the average temperature is warmer. While leaf mulch can be enormously beneficial to your lawn, no more than a 1-inch layer of mulch should be allowed to accrue on your lawn. If more than this accumulates, there is a risk that the microbes in the uncomposted leaves could begin to compete with your grass for valuable nitrogen, an important component in the decomposition process. This can lessen the advantageous effects of the mulch.
If you have an over-abundance of leaves on your lawn, then you may need to consider other methods of leaf removal.
Should you opt to compost fallen leaves before returning them to your lawn, it will eliminate the need to compete for nitrogen. Moreover, composted fall leaves generally offer greater immediate benefits than mulched leaves. Composted leaves will add phosphorous and potassium to the soil. In addition, they will also increase the soil’s ability to drain itself and to retain water as needed.
The downside to mulching leaves is that it requires an investment of time. While leaves have traditionally been composted in piles, an increasing number of lawn care enthusiasts are choosing to use compost drums, which cuts the amount of time required to compost in half. To use it properly, a compost drum should be filled two-thirds of the way with leaves, a 1/4th a cup of nitrogen infused fertilizer, and then moistened. The drum will need to be turned once or twice every three to four days.
Don’t Forget to Mow Your Lawn
Not only is it important to remove fallen leaves from your lawn in a timely manner, you must also ensure that you mow your lawn at least once before winter sets in. Doing so will prevent overgrown and matted grass from forming, which can harbor disease and bacteria.
Finally, it is a common misconception that adding moisture to your lawn during the cold months will harm it. Your lawn will still require its standard watering rate of 1 inch per week. If it does not occur via rain or snow, then you will need to do it by hand. Proper lawn care doesn’t stop once fall and winter arrive, and doing your part now will ensure that you have a vital, healthy, and beautiful lawn once springtime rolls around.