Mulch-mowing is the practice of chopping leaves into small pieces with a lawn mower. Mulch-mowing can be done with a regular mower. While you don’t need specialized equipment, as mulch-mowing has gained popularity the market is now offering additional tools and special equipment that help you to get even better results.
How to Mulch-Mow?
Mulch-mowing is the practice of chopping leaves into small pieces with a lawn mower. You can do this with a regular mower, especially if the leaves are dry, but a mulch-mower works better. Almost all mowers sold today can be used as mulch mowers.Watch this video to see a small household mower mulching leaves. And there are plenty more leaf mulching videos on YouTube. Everyone’s doing it!
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 to get all the leaves shredded. The chopped up leaves fall between the grass blades, decompose and nourish the soil. This will reduce the need for lawn fertilizer.
Landscapers and gardeners with heavy leaf litter 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.
Electric lawn mowers, which are far less polluting than gas-powered mowers, are just as effective at leaf mulching as gasoline operated mowers. Maintaining the lawn with an electric mower is a no-brainer; 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!
Watch this video to see a small household mower mulching leaves.
While thick layers of leaves can smother grass, there is no rush. In the colder seasons grass becomes dormant and has little to fear from leaves.
Mulch the Leaves
The shredded leaves will fall between the grass blades. No need to remove the small leaf bits. You can go over the leaves once more to chop them smaller, or move excess of leaves elsewhere.
A good mulching blade will chop the leaves very fine. Left between the grass blades, these smaller parts break down naturally, becoming compost and enriching the soil.
The composted leaves will enhance the soil structure and support healthier growth. Make sure you cut the grass to the appropriate height for its species.
Most mowers designed for homeowners have mulching blades, which mow and mulch the grass but are also effective for leaf mulching. Make sure they are regularly sharpened, as you would if you were using them just for grass, and replace the blades when necessary. Additional blades, especially designed for leaf mulching, are available for most brands. 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 at chopping leaves than regular mulching blades. Changing the blade on a mower is very simple and can be done on small homeowner mowers as well as professional-grade mowers.
Regular Mowing Blade
Gator Mulching Blade
Changing the Blade
Sharpening a Blade
Keeping Your Blades Sharp
A dull lawn mower blade damages grass blades and clogs leaves. Sharper blades completes your lawn-cutting chore faster, and mulches the leaves easily into fine shreds with less stress on the mower. Typically, you need to sharpen your lawn mower blade once or twice a year, or after 25 hours of use. Sharpening regular mowing blades can be done at home. Here is a tutorial > Mulching blades are harder to sharpen, but it can still be done click here > If you are not interested in sharpening the blades yourself, landscape equipment vendors usually offer sharpening services.
Too Much Leaf Material?
If you feel there is too much leaf material to mulch effectively, redistribute it with a rake into the planting beds, under trees and around shrubs, or spread it around the lawn and mulch the leaves in place. You can also consider the purchase of a leaf sweeper, which makes the collecting of leaves, if dry, effortless.
Like mowing deep, wet grass, mulch-mowing deep piles of wet leaves can be difficult. Spread the leaves thin and try to mulch the leaves when they are dry.
Mulched leaves take up about one tenth of the space of whole leaves.
Using a Sweeper
A lawn sweeper is an alternative to mulch-mowing and can be used to get a completely clean look. A sweeper is also very handy for collecting acorns and twigs. A sweeper works well on hard surfaces, like driveways, as well as lawns and are a really good alternative to using a leaf blower for a finished look because the leaves, acorns, or twigs are contained and can be carted away, placed in a compost pile or tossed in the woods. There are several options of lawn sweepers for both residential use and for professionals.
Other Advantages of Mulch-Mowing
The decomposition of the mulched leaves contributes to better soil structure and improves drainage.
Thatch is a mat of un-decomposed roots and dead grass. Improved soil structure prevents thatch forming.
Natural Top Dressing
Over time, mulched leaves offer the same benefits as a topdressing, but require less work.