It All Depends…
There is no ONE right way to deal with your leaves, and methods vary by site, volume of leaves, and garden features. Landscapers have access to specialized equipment that is even more efficient and are detailed in our For Professional Landscapers page. Here are some commonly recommended methods for homeowners. What to do about all those leaves on the lawn
The Easiest Way
The easiest way to get rid of leaves is to mow them into your lawn. You can do this with a regular mower, especially if the leaves are dry, but a mulch-mower works better. Almost all mowers sold in the past five years are mulch mowers. Watch this video to see a small Sears video mulching leaves. And there are plenty more leaf mulching videos on YouTube. Everyone’s doing it!
In this photo at left, leaves are mowed with a simple hand-pushed gasoline powered mower. If you prefer a really tidy look, you can take another pass to mulch everything. You can catch the leaves in the mower bag and compost them or, preferably and better for your lawn, just let the mulched leaves fall on the lawn, where they will decompose, improving the soil. It doesn’t matter how thick the leaf layer is, you just might have to go over it more than once. If you mow weekly, one pass will probably be fine. At the peak of leaf fall, you may need to mow twice a week or be prepared to do repeat passes. Even this, this is usually much faster than blowing leaves from one end of a yard to another and trying to catch the errant leaves. The chopped up leaves fall between the grass blades, decompose and nourish the soil. No need (or less need) for lawn fertilizer. Landscapers and more serious gardeners switch the blades on their lawnmowers to special mulching blades (available online – called Gators – see the image below). These shred the leaves VERY effectively. Switching a lawnmower blade is really easy and the mulching gator blades usually cost less than $20 depending on your mower type.
Most mowers designed for homeowner use come with mulching blades, designed to mulch grass and which work fine for leaf mulching. Make sure they are regularly sharpened and replace them when necessary. They can be bought at any lawncare maintenance store or ordered online and cost about $20.
Electric lawn mowers, which are far less polluting than gas-powered mowers, are very effective at leaf mulching. (Electric mowers are easier to use than gas blowers: they are lighter, require no oil or gas, and have a simple push start. And they’re so quiet you can listen to music while mowing!)
Gator blades, which have teeth rather than a straight blade, are worth considering for fall clean up if you have lots of leaves. They’re more efficient than regular mulching blades and will also cut your grass perfectly well. Changing the blade on a mower is very simple and can be used on small homeowner mowers as well as professional-grade mowers.
What About Leaves on Hard Surfaces?
You can mow leaves on hardscapes, like driveways and patios, and then move the mulched leaves back onto garden beds, around shrubs, or the lawn. Or just blow or (preferably) rake the leaves onto the lawn and mow them right in.
Wondering About the Leaves on Your Perennial Beds?
Pull or blow fallen leaves off perennial beds, piling them in rows and then mow the rows. The volume is reduced by x10 and the remaining mulch can be replaced on the beds where they will break down forming a protective winter layer and then gradually turn into compost, enriching your soil. Note that blowing leaves out of flower beds, around shrubs and tree roots is very destructive to topsoil. A rake is far better for the health of the plants.
There is no need to remove leaves from robust plants like pachysandra: just rustle the pachysandra plants with a rake so that the leaves fall under the plants. Much easier and quicker than removing the leaves. They’ll be decomposed by next summer. The leaves will decompose and improve the soil naturally.
Mulching and Leaf Volume
Mulched leaves take up about one tenth of the space of whole leaves. They are easy to move and to spread around shrubs and tree roots for winter protection or spring mulch.
Mulching in Steps
Leaves that are mulched turn quickly into compost that nurtures your grass and enhances the soil of you lawn. leaves can also be composted in a designated area and later applied in planting beds of vegetable gardens. Decomposed leaves are rich in humus, which enhances the soil structure and supports healthier growth.