A mulching lawn mower that sucks grass
clippings and leaves back into the blade for additional chopping
would probably do a better job than a conventional mower.
Shredding the leaves and allowing them to remain on the lawn adds
some nutrients and, more importantly, organic matter to the soil.
Organic matter improves the soil’s capacity to hold water and
nutrients as well as creating a better environment for strong root
growth. Using fallen leaves on your lawn and landscape beds also
keeps organic matter out of the landfill.
If you have too many leaves for this to work well, you have the
option of bagging some of the leaves as you mow. Dump them into a
compost pile, or use them as mulch in shrub or flower borders, or
under trees in your yard. (It is not a good idea to do this with
whole leaves because they break down very slowly. They can mat
together and become almost water repellent).
Composted, shredded leaves break break down over the winter to produce leaf mold, a valuable
and attractive mulch for flower beds. Turning the compost pile when
the weather allows speeds up this process. Once you get the worst of
the leaves cleaned up, you can mulch the remainder with the mower
and allow them to stay on your lawn.
With heavy leaf accumulations it will be necessary to rake
some of the leaves up first before using a mulching mower on the
Thatch is nothing more than a tangled mat of sloughed off stems and
roots that forms as a grass plant grows. Grass variety, soil pH
(acidity or alkalinity), and your watering and fertility practices
have much more impact on thatch formation than leaving a thin layer
of finely shredded leaves behind in the fall.
Grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and creeping fescue that spread
by rhizomes (underground stems) tend to create more thatch than
bunch-type grasses such as perennial ryegrass and turf-type tall
fescue. Soil pH that is too low or too high inhibits the activity of
soil microbes that help break thatch down. Maintaining soil pH
between 6.5 and 7.0 keeps them working as long as soil temperatures
remain above 40 degrees.
It is always best to water an
established lawn deeply and infrequently. If you apply an inch to an
inch-and-a-half of water once a week, it penetrates deeper into the
soil profile, which encourages the grass to have deeper roots. If
you water shallowly and frequently, it encourages a shallow root
system that is vulnerable to hot, dry weather. These roots often die
and add to the thatch layer.
Fertilizing your lawn too frequently creates excessive growth and
contributes to thatch buildup, too. A standard recommendation is to
fertilize home lawns three times a year: mid-late May, late
August-early September and mid-November, applying one pound of
nitrogen per thousand square feet each time. This last application
should be made after grass has ceased actively growing, but before
the ground freezes. It may seem counterintuitive, but many plants,
including grasses, put on tremendous root growth in late fall.
To calculate how much of a given fertilizer is needed to apply one
pound of actual nitrogen, simply divide one pound by the percentage
of nitrogen in fertilizer you are using. That information can be
found by looking at the three numbers – known as the analysis –
found on every package of fertilizer. They indicate the percentage
of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and are always listed in that
order. For example, to apply one pound of actual nitrogen per
thousand square feet if the fertilizer you are using has an analysis
of 28-3-10, divide 1 by .28. The result is 3.6 pounds of 28-3-10 per
thousand square feet.
Transplanting in Late Fall
Fertilizer burn on lawns
Freeze Damage to Outdoor Plants