Green tip: When to leave your leaves

Green Tips | September 15, 2017

Last week we explored tips to gardening in autumn, and this week we will elaborate on the importance of leaving leaves and grass clippings on your garden and some areas of your lawn. On the other hand, leaving large leaves piled up several inches on your lawn can cause damage to the grass. This article will elaborate on the intricacies of leaf mulching and disposal as winter approaches.

Areas without grass: gardens, below trees, other mulch areas

Leaves left on the ground in these areas are nature’s mulch: they enhance microbial activity, help suppress weeds, fertilize, and shield the ground from a harsh winter. Ideally, leaves should be kept in tact and raked into these areas to preserve small organisms that may be in the leaves and so that animals can use them as cover. 3-4 inches of leaves can be left on garden and mulch areas.

The Lawn

Too much leaf coverage can damage your lawn, but the correct amount of leaves chopped down into dime-sized pieces can lead to a healthier, more vibrant lawn in the spring. A mulch mower or setting is best, but a normal lawn mower can do the trick. Mow beginning from the outside of the lawn without the bag attachment so that you can run over the same leaves several times in order to break them up. Less than an inch of finely chopped leaves can be left on the lawn and half an inch of grass should be peeking out. Your lawn may benefit from fertilizer in addition to this leaf-mulch.


Alternatively, leaves can be broken down into particles by running over them 1-3 times with a mower to get them into as small as possible. Leaves can added to a compost pile or a new one can be created – this will turn into rich soil to be used as mulch in the spring.

Leave Leaves Alone, a project by Bedford 2020, has more information here.

By: Victoria Shea

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