We loved the colours on the leaves on trees this fall, but now they’re down, on the driveway, on the sidewalk, blown in through the front door, in the flower beds and on the lawn. And one of the biggest of all garden chores is staring you in the face, gathering up and dealing with the leaves.
Ignoring them, closing the blinds and turning the channel is not an option. They’re not going away. You can rake them, blow them, vacuum them, compost them or you can mow them. Yes, mow them.
Leaves should definitely not be left on the lawn over the winter. They block sunlight from reaching the turf, resulting in bleached grass blades come spring. Moisture builds up under those leaves, and the more leaves there are the more moisture is absorbed. Normally our lawns don’t have issues with fungal diseases over winter, but a blanket of leaves left over winter will surely tempt fate.
Mowing leaves on your lawn turns them into a very beneficial mulch that helps your lawn. One university study showed that turning the leaves into mulch on the lawn increased the activity of microbes in the soil and promoted better water infiltration.
Another study found that lawns greened up quicker in spring when leaves were mulched into them in fall. Another benefit is fewer dandelions in the spring.
So, your lawn is hidden by leaves, and you haven’t winterized your mower yet. Chances are the lawn needs cutting one last time anyway, because they really seemed to grow back in mid-October. If the leaves are thick move them around and spread them out before you cut.
Fire up the mower and run over the leaves until they are dime-sized and you can see about a half inch of lawn through the leaves. At this size the microbes and worms can start working on breaking them down. By spring you won’t even see the broken down leaf pieces in your lawn, but you will notice that the lawn looks greener and healthier.
If you’ve got more leaves than lawn, gather them up, spread them out on the lawn and fire up the mower again. Run back and forth over the leaves until they’re dime-sized. Rake up the results and spread them over bare soil in your flower and vegetable beds. It’s a fantastic mulch that will break down over winter and improve your soil like nothing else will.
If you’ve got too much mulch for your beds, pile it into your compost. If you’ve still got too much mulch, bag it up and set it anonymously on the doorstep of the keen gardener down the street. Or wrap a bow around the top of the bag and give a Christmas gift that will give for years!

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