Mulching and Mower Decks
What is mulching? Why should I consider doing it? How will it make my lawn look better? Learn all about mulching now.
A John Deere exclusive. The MulchControl™ Kit with One-Touch Technology.
Grass mulch can help keep your lawn healthy and looking its best. It’s easy to do with our many lawn mower and mower deck offerings. Check out the tractor mower compatibility.
This is grass mulch.
The easy way to feed your lawn. To make grass mulch, grass is cut into easily absorbed grass clippings to help keep your lawn healthy and lush.
Mulch with the push of a button.
The John Deere MulchControl™ Kit with One-Touch Technology is the easy way to mulch. With the push of a button you can mulch when you want to.
Push the button and mulch. The chute closes and you have a dedicated mulching system. Perfect for regular, weekly, or bi-weekly mowing.
Side-discharge mow or bag mode.
Push the button again, or pull the lever, with your MulchControl™ System, the chute opens and you can side-discharge mow or bag. The choice is yours.
Eight things you need to know about mulch mowing.
Fertilizing your lawn just got easier. Just let your grass clippings do the job for you. Grass clipping mulch is the natural way to feed your lawn essential nutrients. Here are eight things you need to know:
Riding Mower Gator Mulching Blades. Do They Work?
Mulch mowing allows clippings to be cut finely enough so that they can’t be seen when redistributed into the lawn.
Make sure your blades are sharp. Sharp blades help ensure a precise, quality cut.
Mulching returns nitrogen-rich nutrients to your lawn. This feeds your lawn and can reduce the amount of fertilizer you need.
Follow the “one-third” rule when mulch mowing, taking no more off than the top third of the grass blade. Fast-growing conditions will warrant more frequent mowing.
Mulching works better when the grass is dry.
The MulchControl™ System from John Deere is the easy way to mulch while you mow.
If tall or wet grass conditions result in unsightly clumps, your MulchControl™ System should be used in side-discharge mode.
If conditions warrant using your MulchControl™ System in side-discharge mode, clippings are likely to be visible for a few days as they decay.
This exclusive technology is available with One-Touch Technology on the John Deere X350 Select Series Riding Lawn Tractor with a 42-in or 48-in Accel Deep™ Mower Deck and other Select Series mowers.
MulchControl™ Kits, with the pull-of-a-lever technology, are available on S240 Riding Mowers with Accel Deep™ Mower Decks, Select Series Mowers, Signature Series Mowers, and all Residential ZTrak™ Mowers.
All MulchControl™ Kits from John Deere include mulching blades for best grass mulching results.
The science behind mulching.
Who loves lugging a heavy bag of lawn clippings to the compost pile or yard waste bin, or endlessly raking leaves in the fall? Pretty much nobody, that’s who. Fortunately, for the sake of aching backs and nutrient-hungry lawns, it’s best to forgo the bag and opt to mulch lawn clippings and leaves instead.
Each little bit of plant material is full of nutrients, and being organic matter, when left in place, can improve the overall health of the soil which in turn, better supports the turf and potentially decreases inputs.
“In the lawncare industry, we’re realizing that rather than feed the lawn synthetically with fertilizers, we can choose to do it more organically by mulching grass clippings and leaving them on the lawn to sift in,” says Richard Hentschel, University of Illinois horticultural extension educator. “Leaving clippings on the lawn provides the equivalent of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. That’s nitrogen you didn’t have to buy and apply.” Removing the clippings means also removing those nutrients from the system.
Besides nutrients, clippings return carbon to the soil, which helps build soil organic matter by feeding the microflora that decomposes that organic matter. Soil organic matter (SOM) is measured as a percentage of organic matter in the soil and is the primary indicator of soil health, and therefore the health of the lawn growing in the soil. The higher the percentage of SOM, the more nutrients and water the soil can retain.
“Every 1 percent of SOM holds 1/3 gallon of water per cubic foot of soil,” Hentschel explains. “So, a soil with a fairly good measurement of 3 percent SOM can hold as much as 1 gallon of water per cubic foot.” The ability to hold more water means more of the water applied to the soil through irrigation or falling on the lawn as rain will stay put and turf will be more resistant to swings in temperature and drought conditions.
“SOM also is Mother Nature’s slow release fertilizer. It’s not just the usual nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium either, it’s all 16 of the nutrients essential for plant growth,” Hentschel says. Constantly removing lawn clippings and other organic matter results in decreasing levels of SOM, and lawns will become increasingly dependent on the application of synthetic fertilizers.
While lawns benefit from clippings, they don’t want to be smothered by them. Using best mowing practices can leave grass room to breathe and looking as clean as it would with bagging. The key is to mow with sharp blades and frequently enough that no more than 1/3 of the plant tissue is removed per cutting. This will result in less plant material for the lawn to reincorporate per pass.
“If you mow often with a sharp mower blade, even a conventional mower — as opposed to a mower designed specifically for mulching — will cut the grass up fine enough for it to sift back into the standing grass and break up quickly releasing nutrients to the soil and growing grass as it decomposes,” Hentschel says.
It may be a relatively simple task to stay ahead of grass to get a nice fine mulch that disappears quickly into the lawn, but what about leaves in the fall? Hentschel says to go ahead and mulch them, too. Leaves should be mowed frequently as they fall. To ensure finely parsed leaves that will move into the thatch layer more quickly, it may be necessary to make two or more passes with the lawnmower per mowing. When more leaves fall, simply keep making passes to chop up the material and help speed the composting process.
Hentschel says the leaf residue will work its way into the soil taking valuable nutrients with them and creating a barrier that can help control weeds. With multiple years of mulching leaves, which returns more nutrients to the soil through the extra organic matter, lawns may not need as much fertilizer in the spring. And because the leaf residue covers up bare spots where weeds can gain a foothold, it’s possible over time to see fewer dandelions and crabgrass issues after multiple years of mulching.
No raking, no lugging, less fertilizer, more efficient water use, and fewer weeds—for once, the easy choice is also the best choice. Go ahead and leave the mower bag in the shed if you’re so inclined, and leave the organic matter right where it belongs, on the lawn.
Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade: The Most Concise Comparison
Comparing a mulching blade vs regular blade is very confusing when it comes to choosing the right mower for your lawn. Both of these fall in similar price ranges, so why should you go for one instead of the other?
Read this article where we clearly outline the major differences between these two blade types and their respective advantages. Read through this guide to learn which one is better for your lawn and grass in all aspects of lawn care.
- Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade Comparison Table
- What Are The Differences Between Mulching Blade and Regular Blade?
- What Are The Advantages of Mulching Blade?
- – Their Three-In-One Cutting Property
- – It Cuts Grass Into Much Smaller Pieces
- – Can Be Used To Fertilize The Lawn
- – Mulching Blades Works On Lower Power
- – Mulching Blades Make The Grass Lush
- – Mulching Blades Save Time and Are Eco Friendly
- – They Offer Two-In-One Service During Mowing
- – They Can Be Used On All Soil Types
- – They Can Be Low Lift or High Lift Blades
- – Less Frequent Mowing
- – Do You Have To Mow Slower When Mulching?
- – Are Mulching Blades With Teeth a Better Option?
- – Why Does My Mulching Mower Leave Clumps of Grass?
- – Why Does My Lawn Mower Leave a Strip of Grass in the Middle?
Mulching Blade vs Regular Blade Comparison Table
- The cutting edge is straight
- Some might have a small curvature at the end of the blade
What Are The Differences Between Mulching Blade and Regular Blade?
The main difference between a mulching blade and a regular is that the mulching blade is shorter and has a curved edge. It can cut the grass into much finer clippings which can be used as mulch or fertilizer. The regular one is able to cut taller grass in comparison.
What Are The Advantages of Mulching Blade?
The many advantages of mulching blades include cutting, storing, and dispersing finely cut grass tip clippings over the lawn.
A mulching mower uses much less power which helps you to save up quite a bit on fuel and electricity bills. These toothed blade sets also tend to fertilize the lawn while mowing it.
– Their Three-In-One Cutting Property
When used in lawn mowers, Mulching blades can cut leaf blades. store them in a bag, or mulch them so you can put them to further use. So basically, these blades were created to give the standard blades a run for their money!
It cuts the grass tips into very small and fine pieces and then spreads them evenly on the surface of the grass. If you do not want this to happen, you can always go back to the option of simply bagging the cut grass ends and then using them for whatever purpose you wish.
The blade performs its three functions simultaneously: mulching, bagging, and discharging. The efficiency and speed of cutting are also more than the regular blade.
– It Cuts Grass Into Much Smaller Pieces
Mulching blades have the ability to cut grass into very small clippings. So that even if you lay these clippings on the surface of the mowed lawn, it gives a very neat appearance overall.
These small clippings decompose faster as compared to larger ones. Using them as mulch for the grass or plant pots will break down quickly and release their nutrients into the soil.
These small clippings can also be added to your compost pile. They will quickly break down and turn into compost without changing the overall texture of the pile, unlike larger grass blades and food scraps.
– Can Be Used To Fertilize The Lawn
Mulching blades are the only lawn mower blades that can help you fertilize your lawn while mowing it. It first cuts the grass blades into precise small pieces. These pieces are then sucked back into the mower deck, where it is cut further into even smaller-sized pieces.
You then can spread these finely chopped clippings over the entire lawn as a form of fertilizer. Compare this with a regular type of blade where you will have to collect the cut grass clippings, cut them into finer pieces, and manually spread them evenly over the lawn.
Because these clippings are very finely chopped. they will decompose faster, and your lawn will have quicker access to the nutrients released. This type of natural fertilizer works better for lawns instead of using chemical feeds.
– Mulching Blades Works On Lower Power
Surprisingly, a grass mulching lawn mower works on much lower power compared to other types. This goes for both electricity and gasoline-fueled riding mowers. You can save electricity and fuel bills while providing top lawn care.
– Mulching Blades Make The Grass Lush
Using a blade mulching mower you can spread the cut grass clippings as mulch over the lawn. Mulch prevents excessive water from evaporating from the surface of the soil. It helps a lot when it comes to retaining water during the hot summer months. Grass clipping mulch has been known to help retain as much as 80 percent of the water in the soil.
Combine this hydrating property with the Rapid release of nutrients by the finely cut grass. Your grass will grow thicker and lusher than ever before.
However, not all grass types do well when mulched. This trick works only in grass types with wide blades, such as tall fescue and crabgrass. Tall fescue is a popular cold-season grass that responds well to mulch spread by a mulching blade.
– Mulching Blades Save Time and Are Eco Friendly
Using a mower with this blade type will save up a lot of your time when it comes to collecting, storing, and later dispersing the clippings. Even if you do not want to spread the cut grass on the lawn as mulch, you still have the option of bagging them separately.
over, the ability to convert grass into much is good news for the environment. You will get the opportunity to recycle your organic waste, which also means much less fodder for landfills.
What Are The Advantages of a Regular Blade?
The advantage of a regular mower blade is that it cuts even tall grass finely and then bags the clippings away. Unlike bagging and gator blades, these blades can be used on all soil types.
– They Offer Two-In-One Service During Mowing
A regular mowing blade allows you to cut your overgrown lawn grass quickly and efficiently. It works by creating a vacuum. due to which the grass blades stand up. This blade then easily cuts through this upright grass in one swift motion.
Another in-built property of this blade is allowing the lawn mower to bag and store the cut grass clippings simultaneously. If you are someone who despises their lawn when it is covered with grass-clipping mulch, then this is the blade of choice for you.
Most older lawn grass mowers came built-in with this type of blade. You may purchase one separately and attach it with a modern mower if you want to use some of its properties. Many new designs of mowers allow users to attach and use different blades according to how they want the grass cut.
– They Can Be Used On All Soil Types
Regular blades can be used on all types of soil in which grass has been grown. Whether your lawn is composed of sandy or clay-like soil, either type can be mowed using these blades easily.
The only prerequisite to using these for lawn care is that the grass needs to be slightly taller. It cannot cut through the grass patches that are smaller in height. If your lawn is uneven or sloping, your grass will get cut quite unevenly.
– They Can Be Low Lift or High Lift Blades
Low lift blades are a modification of the standard blades that are useful on sandy soil types. They are less curly than normal ones and only three to four inches long. They do not suck the grass blades too high. so the sand or soil does not blow up around a lot. Because of their small size, these blades work for much longer periods.
High-lift blades are another modified type of regular mower blades. Their blade edges have vertical angles along their length. which creates a very high level of suction. This makes it perfect for smoothly cutting very tall grass blades by pulling them upright.
Naturally, you cannot use this high lift blade on sandy terrain because it will kick up a lot of dirt. It also uses a lot of fuel and energy, which might wear out the mower quickly over time. The good news is that it can bag the cut clippings safely.
– Less Frequent Mowing
Using regular or standard blades means you cut much less frequently for two main reasons. First, these lawn mower blades can get tall grass without getting their inner machinery choked up.
Secondly, these blades cut close to the ground. which naturally takes a long time for the grass to grow. So you get to rest before it is time for the next mowing. If you have little time for constant lawn maintenance or are someone naturally disinclined toward mowing, this should be an important consideration.
– Do You Have To Mow Slower When Mulching?
Yes, you must mow your lawn slowly using a mulching blade. This blade works by cutting each blade of grass multiple times so that it gets chopped up into very fine pieces. This is important to turn grass into organic fertilizer or mulch for use in the lawn or garden plants.
That is why it is important to go slowly because if you rush the job, the grass will not be cut up properly. Instead, the mower will leave large and unsightly pieces of grass clumps over the lawn. This will not only be less efficient but will also put a strain on the engine.
– Are Mulching Blades With Teeth a Better Option?
Yes, toothed blades are better at mulching grass than non-toothed ones. Technically, any blade with teeth cannot be considered a true mulching blade.
Still, when you compare it to non-mulching blades like high or low-lift ones, it does a much neater job of turning grass into usable mulch.
The teeth do not cut the grass themselves. Instead, they propel them back toward the mower’s deck, where the actual cutting occurs.
– Why Does My Mulching Mower Leave Clumps of Grass?
A lawn that is wet is the number one reason your grass gets clumped together after being cut by a mulching type of mower. It is natural for grass blades to stick to each other when they are wet or even slightly moist with dew. That is why you must wait for the lawn to dry before mowing it.
The second reason might be that the grass has just grown too long. Mulching types of blades are just not very good at cutting longer blades. They become less efficient and start throwing out clippings in clumps instead. It is better to resort to a regular blade type if you have let the grass grow too long.
If the grass is dry and short and still this problem persists, then you need to check your mower. often than not, the blades will need sharpening at their edges. If you are still operating a very old type of mower, it may need to be replaced or upgraded.
– Why Does My Lawn Mower Leave a Strip of Grass in the Middle?
If your mower leaves a strip of grass uncut in the middle, its blades are not balanced properly or have been installed incorrectly.
All mowing blades are beveled and meant to be attached to the mower in a certain way. If both or even one of them is improperly attached, grass mowed will be cut unevenly and poorly.
We have discussed the differences and merits between mulch and regular blades used in mowers. Mulch-type blades not only cut the grass finely but also spread it over the grass as mulching material.
On the other hand, the regular type of blades has the advantage that they can cut much taller grass as compared to the mulching and other types. In our opinion, you should keep both these blade types because most latest versions of lawnmowers can use both interchangeably.
Mulching Leaves with a Lawn Mower: Tips Tricks
A lot of people hate the fall because they associate it with raking leaves. Hours of back-breaking work, toiling to get your yard looking somewhat respectable once more. There must be a better way, right?! Well, there is. Mulching leaves with a lawn mower is a great alternative that will not only save you from all that bending over, but it will also provide your lawn with a number of benefits.
By mulching leaves, I’m referring to the process whereby you use your lawn mower to cut them into minute little shreds that are spread over the surface of your lawn, which then decompose naturally after a short time.
Sound good? I thought so! All you need is a mower capable of mulching (although you can mulch leaves without a mower) and a bit of know-how, which I’m going to provide you with in this article.
Why You Should Mulch Leaves with a Lawn Mower
Before I get stuck in with the tips and tricks to help you mulch leaves more effectively with a lawn mower, I just want to touch on a few of the key reasons for giving up the rake and dealing with your leaves in this manner instead. People often ask me “is mulching leaves good for your lawn?” My response: YOU BET IT IS!
- Mulching is easier on the back, as you cut out all that bending down to collect the leaves.
- It’ll improve the health of the soil, which in turn leads to a healthier lawn.
- It’s remarkably quicker than raking leaves.
- Better for the environment – bagged leaves go to landfill, mulched leaves don’t.
- Saves you money on fertilizer and other products from the store.
In short, mulching leaves with a lawn mower is a win-win all round. For your own health, your lawn’s health, your finances and for the planet. It’s not so often that all of those things align!
A Few Things Before You Start
My wife always tells me that “I’m too square” and it’s definitely true that I prefer to follow a methodical routine every time I mow. It helps me to avoid doing anything stupid (most of the time). Anyway, here are a couple of things I think you would be wise to do before you start.
Check for Hidden Objects
No, your lawn hasn’t been converted into the set of a cool new game show. BUT, if you’re dealing with a good covering of leaves, there could be some “surprises” hidden beneath the surface.
And if those surprises turn out to be a rock or another hard object, running over them with a mower isn’t a great idea. It can actually seriously damage your mower, with a bent blade or crankshaft the likely result (I’m guilty of making this mistake).
That’s why I always pace up and down my lawn before I fire my mower up. I use my feet to feel under any spots that are completely covered over by leaves, and remove anything that I find. (Dog toys are a pretty common find in my case.)
Set the Right Cutting Height
The best mower height for mulching leaves is something a lot of people struggle with. Some set it far too low, which ends up compacting all of the leaves, overloading the engine or motor, and results in very slow progress. Then others set it very high, which isn’t as bad, but often only results in a fraction of the leaves actually getting mulched.
It does depend somewhat on how many leaves you’re dealing with, the type of grass you have, and a few other factors, but I’ve found that somewhere between 2.5 and 3 inches generally works well for me. There’s enough contact, but the cutting deck (and consequently the engine) is not overloaded with leaves.
If when you start, you see your mower is struggling, stop and raise the deck to the next setting. React to what you see happening.
Mulching Leaves with a Lawn Mower Effectively
There’s mulching leaves with a lawn mower, and then there’s mulching leaves with a lawn mower properly. Through lots of trial and error, as well as learning from others, I’ve picked up some tips that can make this practice a lot more efficient.
Mulch Your Leaves Little and Often
Let them pile up and they won’t mulch so well. If you’ve ever tried to walk over a lawn that is covered in a thick layer of fallen leaves, it’s hard going, right?! It’s the same for your lawn mower. Trying to mulch that many leaves at once puts an awful lot of strain on the engine. If you’ve got a cheaper mower with a weaker engine or motor, you can forget it. It’ll continually bog down.
Why make life difficult for yourself when you don’t have to? Instead of waiting for all of the leaves to drop and dealing with them in one mammoth session (which will make you hate the experience most likely), take out your mower and mulch leaves once or twice per week through the fall. That way, you’ll always be mulching a manageable amount.
Bagging blades VS Mulching blades
Another reason to mulch your leaves often is because the longer you leave them on the lawn, the less benefit your lawn will receive when you finally do mulch them. This is because their mineral value is lost through leaching over time. This mineral value is at its highest just after they fall to the ground.
Dry Leaves Mulch Infinitely Better
I can’t stress how much of a nightmare mulching wet leaves is. It’s honestly horrendous. If you think mulching wet grass is bad, damp leaves is next-level stuff.
Wait for a dry day and check the leaves are completely dry before you decide to have a mulching session. Dry leaves mulch extremely well and break down into very small particles very easily, which is exactly what you want.
Be Prepared for Multiple Passes
If you want to mulch leaves properly, it’s likely that you’ll have to go over them multiple times, particularly if you have a good covering of leaves. They’re not going to break down into small enough pieces on the first pass, so going over them 2 or even 3 times can be necessary.
If this makes the whole thing seem like more of a chore, just remember that the more you break down the leaves, the quicker they will decompose and start providing nutrients to your lawn.
Go Slower Than Normal
It can be tempting to tear right through a lawn covered in leaves, particularly if you’re on a ride-on mower or you have a self-propelled mower, but a steadier pace really is your friend when mulching leaves. You see, your mower really needs that extra time to put the leaves through the cutting cycle again and again to ensure they are as small as possible. If you go faster, you make it rush its work. So the slower the better in my experience. That’s how you get really good mulch.
About Tom Greene
I’ve always had a keen interest in lawn care as long as I can remember. Friends used to call me the lawn mower guru (hence the site name), but I’m anything but. I just enjoy cutting my lawn and spending time outdoors. I also love the well-deserved doughnuts and coffee afterward!
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
Hi Tom, And thanks for the leaf mulching tips. One question: do you think it is better to cover up the grass chute, or leave it open for normal discharge- when mulching. Thanks forany ideas, karl
Hi Karl. My recommendation would be that the grass chute should be covered when mulching. Just make sure you take it nice and slow. If the chute is left open, the grass and leaves will be discharged while they are in larger pieces than they would be if the chute were covered. The smaller the pieces of grass and leaves, the faster they will break down. Covering the chute will also lead to a more even distribution of the mulched material. I hope that helps
My mulching mower seems to push or blow the leaves forward more than it does suck them up and mulch. How can I fix that?
Hi Dave! I’m sorry to hear that mulching hasn’t gone as you expected. Several factors can cause a mulching mower to behave unexpectedly. Below are a few things you can check or adjust to get things to work how they should. 1. Check to make sure that the deck of the mower is clean. Even 1/2″ of buildup can cause a mulching mower to refuse to take in the leaves. 2. Check to ensure that the right blades are attached. Mulching blades typically have a distinct, notched shape that helps cut through debris and prevent leaves and small particles from blowing around. 3. If the right blade is attached, it may be upside down. Mulching blades need to be attached in a certain way so that they “pull” instead of “push”. The side that needs to go “up” should be marked on the blade. If not, the tabs or “wings” should be pointed up, as a general rule. 4. Ensure that the blades are sharp. Dull blades won’t mulch leaves as much as they will cause them to clump under the mower causing a clog that can result in this type of leaf-pushing situation. 5. Check to make sure that the deck is level and at an appropriate height. Most lawnmower decks can be adjusted for both height and tilt though how you can adjust these things will depend on the model of mower you have. 6. Depending on your mower, you may need to add a small wedge to the chute where the bag is attached in order to balance the airflow. Most mulching mowers include a small, plastic, wedge-shaped accessory for this purpose. 7. It is normal for some leaves, especially fresh or wet leaves to escape the mower but you should still get the majority of them in the first pass. Mulching all of the leaves on a lawn may take more passes than you’re used to but the results are usually worth the extra effort. I hope one of these suggestions helps you solve your leaf-mulching problem! Cheers, Tom.
Hi Jack, Throughout the year, I would say it’s fine because the oak tree shouldn’t be dropping too many leaves to overwhelm the grass. But when it comes to fall, I suggest picking them up and getting rid of them. The amount of leaves dropped during the fall will act as a blanket and suffocate the lawn, even if you cut them up with the mower. Another idea is to compost the oak leaves with other organic matter and use it down the line, say in a few months when the compost is ready. Thanks for your comment, Tom.
I see recommendations advising against mulching wet leaves. Perhaps it’s a toss wet or dry leaves. Wet leaves create less dust and are heavy creating less mower deck throw out and more multiple cut leaf fragments.
Hi David, In my experience, it’s really down to what lawn mower you are using. If you have a big mower with multiple blades, then wet leaves are not such a problem. But if you are using a small single-blade lawn mower, then it can get clogged up pretty quickly and bog down with wet leaves. That being said, you are definitely right when it comes to the amount of dust created by cutting dry leaves. Sometimes it’s like mowing in a Cloud. Thanks for the comment. Tom.
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Should I Rake or Mulch My Leaves?
Colorful autumn leaves are one of fall’s greatest pleasures. But beautiful autumn color quickly translates to leaves on your lawn. When lush, healthy grass is your goal, ignoring fallen leaves isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean raking and bagging leaves is the way. Mulching leaves into your lawn is easier — and better for your lawn and the environment. By understanding answers to the following questions, you can mulch your way to a healthier lawn:
Why can’t leaves just stay on the lawn?
Like all plants, your grass has basic requirements for keeping it lush and green. At the top of the list are sunlight, water, nutrients and oxygen. And a mat of fallen leaves interferes with them all. Think of it like growing grass in dense shade, only multiplied several times.
Without sunlight, your fall lawn can’t carry out photosynthesis and replenish reserves before winter comes. Water and nutrients can’t penetrate leaves to nurture and nourish grass roots. Plus, poor air circulation sets the stage for fungal lawn disease. Come spring, you’re faced with bare lawn spots and a weak, thin lawn. And because leaves keep soil colder in spring, you’ll wait longer for grass to turn green. 1 Fallen leaves don’t just disappear. Maple leaves break down faster, but oak and sycamore leaves can take more than a year to decompose. 2 By learning the best way to remove leaves from your yard — and doing it — you prevent your grass from suffering.
Left unmanaged, fallen leaves can smother grasses and encourage lawn disease.
Is mulching leaves better than raking?
Whether you mulch or bag leaves, removing leaves keeps them from smothering your lawn. But shredding leaves into tiny pieces by mulching them has benefits that raking and bagging don’t.
Tree leaves contain about 2% nitrogen. 1 To stay green, thick and healthy, your lawn grass needs nitrogen in a greater quantity than any other essential plant nutrient. That’s why the first number in the N-P-K on most lawn fertilizer labels is the largest.
By mulching leaves instead of raking, you treat your lawn to natural fertilizer and beneficial organic matter. Plus, mulching leaves into your lawn can discourage weed seeds from germinating and reduce common lawn weeds such as dandelions and crabgrass significantly. 1,3 In many cases, you can mulch leaves during regular lawn mowing. That means more free time for you.
Keep in mind that raking and toting leaf bags are strenuous aerobic activities, too. For some people, the cardiac health risks of raking and bagging leaves rank right up there with shoveling snow. 4
Mulching leaves into your lawn can help reduce unwanted weeds.
What equipment do I need to mulch leaves?
You can learn how to mulch leaves without investing in a lot of extra equipment. Mulching leaves with a regular lawn mower can get the job done. If you deal with large quantities of heavy leaves in a short time frame, a mulching mower for mowing leaves into your lawn may make sense.
A regular lawn mower cuts grass blades and shoots grass clippings out of the side or into a bag. Mowing leaves into lawn grass works the same way. Leaves must be mulched into small pieces that can filter down to soil, so a regular lawn mower may require a few trips back and forth. You can also purchase mulching blades for your regular mower. Depending on the amount of leaves you have to mulch, these specially designed mulching blades may decrease the number of passes you need to make across your lawn.
In contrast, a mulching mower keeps grass clippings — and leaves — under the mower deck. The blades cut clippings several times, so smaller pieces result. Mulching mowers help enhance your lawn’s sustainability during regular mowing, too. Mulching grass clippings into your lawn delivers an all-natural 4-1-2 fertilizer every time you mow. 5
Dedicated leaf mulchers come in push, pull and handheld options. They’re designed especially for shredding leaves, not cutting grass. Popular models include cordless mulchers that switch from leaf blowers into leaf vacuums that shred and collect mulched leaves for other uses.
Mulching mowers chop grass and leaves into small pieces.
How and when should I mulch leaves with a mower?
The best approach to mulching leaves with a mower is being proactive. Plan on mowing leaves instead of raking as part of your regular fall lawn maintenance. Start as soon as leaves begin to fall. Mowing a few leaves is simpler than mowing a lot, and dry leaves mulch better than wet ones. When mulching while mowing, use your regular mower height for mulching leaves.
As lawn mowing slows down and falling leaves speed up, mulch with your mower at least once a week — twice if needed. Use the highest mower height for mulching leaves. University research indicates you can mulch up to 6 inches of leaves on your lawn as long as you mulch leaves into small pieces.3 Mulching mowers and leaf mulchers can handle larger leaf volumes more efficiently.
Whether your lawn care calendar covers northern regions or southern zones, mulching enhances the impact of other fall tasks. Late summer to early fall is the perfect time for overseeding your cool-season lawn with premium grass seed such as Pennington Smart Seed grasses or prepping your grass with winterizing fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen Winterizer Plus Weed Feed Fertilizer 22-0-14. By mulching leaves into your lawn, you help ensure your grass gets all the benefits you can put into it.
Mulching leaves helps ensure your grass gets the full benefit of fertilizers and other fall tasks.
Does mulching leaves help the environment?
If you’re still wondering whether should you rake leaves, look past your lawn. The benefits of mulching fall leaves go beyond supporting healthy soil and grass growth. Mulched leaves are an excellent addition to your compost pile, creating rich organic material for future garden use. 2 Used as garden mulch, shredded leaves help avoid fluctuations in soil temperatures that can damage plant roots. As mulched leaves decompose, they work as a soil amendment, adding organic matter and improving soil.
Mowing leaves instead of raking also helps to reduce landfills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that yard trimmings accounted for more than 7% of all municipal solid waste that ultimately ended up in landfills in 2018. That’s about 10.5 million tons of un-composted, landfilled solid waste — and leaves make up 25% of that preventable waste. 6
By mulching your leaves instead of raking, you can improve your lawn and benefit the environment as well. At Pennington, we’re dedicated to helping you grow the best lawn possible and enjoy the results. We’ve been here for seed professionals and homeowners for more than 75 years — and we’re here for you, too. Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions.
Pennington and Smart Seed are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.
UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden Pet Company.Sources: 1. J. Trappe, Should I Mulch? Or Bag My Leaves This Fall?, University of Minnesota Extension.
P. Burns, Leave the Leaves, North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
R. Finneran, Mulch Leaves Into Turf for a Smart Lawn, Michigan State University Extension.
Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling, Yard Trimmings: Material-Specific Data, United States Environmental Protection Agency.