Tired of Raking? Try Mowing!
Raking the leaves in the fall is one of those dreaded chores for many people. Research has shown that by frequently mowing, you can sometimes incorporate up to four to six inches of fallen tree leaves into the turf without harming it. The theory behind mowing the leaves into the lawn is based upon the fact that you have to mow the lawn frequent enough. So, whenever you get a light dusting of leaves on the turf, you’ll need to mow.
You’ll mow not by whether the turf needs mowing, but rather you’ll mow based on the amount of leaf coverage. So if you’re mowing frequent enough that when you look behind you the leaves are finely chopped, and they’re filtering their way back down to the soil surface, then you don’t need to pick up the leaves.
Normally about four to six total inches of leaves can be mowed into the lawn. Now, that doesn’t mean going out and mowing six inches of leaves all at one time. It means mowing an inch of leaves six times throughout the fall period to keep them chopped and fine so that they filter down to the soil surface.
The other bit of research revealed that if you are going to mow these leaves back into the lawn, you also need to fertilize well in the fall. Extension always recommends feeding the cool season grasses: bluegrass and tall fescue both in September and November. Research has found that when you mulch mow and fertilize in the fall, the fertilizer helps to breakdown and turn the leaves into compost, so that they’ll filter into the lawn and turn into humus, which is beneficial to the lawn.
Of course, if the leaves pile up deep enough that they start suffocating or shading the lawn, then you’ll need to rake the leaves, or get out the bagger on the mower and collect the leaves. But as long as you continue to mow frequently enough, chopping those leaves fine enough so that they filter back to the soil surface, we can save ourselves a lot of work in the lawn this fall.
This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local extension office, or visit our website.