Autumn is here, and with it an abundance of fallen leaves. There are always questions as to what to do with them all — rake, mulch, compost, or ignore. There are many options. I will help you figure out what is best for your yard.
If we are talking about the leaves which fall on the grass, it is my opinion that it is best to collect them. When they are left on the lawn, they can compact and mold can soon become a problem. If they are mulched into the lawn with a mulching mower, they can be too acidic and wreck the delicate PH balance that is so important to a beautiful healthy lawn. Also — a little known fact — they will not decompose properly and will become a thatch problem, once the overnight temperatures are below 55 degrees.
One of the easiest, back-friendly ways of collecting leaves is to bag them with the mower. Just be sure to empty the bag frequently, as it will fill quickly! This works well if your leaves are less than an inch thick on the lawn. If they are thicker than that, your best option is raking or using a leaf blower. My personal favorite style of rake is the really wide plastic sweep with a padded handle so you do not get blisters on your hands.
I also like using a mower to collect the leaves, because it starts the composting process by chopping the leaves up into small pieces. If you have the space in your yard for a compost bin, this is the perfect time to start one! Just layer in brown (fallen leaves), then green (grass clippings). When you have a few minutes give it a stir with a garden fork, just a few times over the winter should do it. By spring you will have a wonderful amendment to stir into your flowerbeds or as a top dressing around bushes.
The only place it is best to ignore the fallen leaves is in a wooded setting where there is no grass. They will provide a layer of warmth to the tree roots over the winter. As they decompose, they will be the perfect PH for their setting, because they are falling onto the soil below the tree where they came from. Thank you, Mother Nature!
I know it is a common practice to use a blower in the garden beds; please do not do this. It is like putting your bushes through a hurricane with the force of the wind the blowers produce. Never a good thing! Even though it takes a bit more time to pick the leaves out, or rake them out, it’s worth it for the health of your plants.
It is so nice to get out into the fresh Autumn air. I like the chance to put the yard to rest for the winter to come. I hope you think so, too. Enjoy!