Put Fallen Leaves to Work

September 1, 2021

Ask a random group of homeowners how they handle fallen autumn leaves and most will sort themselves into one of two groups: Either they leave leaves where they fall, or they industriously gather every single one and arrange for the bags to be picked up. The best way to support the health of your lawn is a combination of these two approaches. Leaves should definitely be removed, but why throw them away when they can serve an important purpose?

If Leaves Are Useful, Why Remove Them?

Fallen leaves that congeal into a mat will prevent oxygen and rainfall from reaching grass roots while trapping the moisture that’s already in the soil, creating a damp environment in which a science textbook’s worth of destructive funguses and insects can thrive.

Check your lawn daily for a week or two to get a sense of the rate of accumulation. Then create a schedule to ensure you gather leaves regularly before they can do any harm. A rake may seem like the obvious tool for the job, but most rakes can do serious damage to grass blades and roots even if you’re careful. We agree with most lawn care professionals that a leaf blower is a safer, and more efficient, choice.

Why Am I Saving These Leaves?

Looking back on grade school, we may dimly recall a process called photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is “inhaled” by plants, which combine it with water and use the energy in sunlight to convert the mixture into sugar and oxygen, which is “exhaled.” Plants also absorb carbon from soil through their roots and convert it to energy. Therefore, soil that contains an appropriate amount of carbon is better for the health and well-being of grass, flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees and shrubs.

Like most living (or recently living) things, leaves contain a lot of carbon. The same leaf that can smother grass blades when it’s whole can contribute to nutritious mulch or compost once it’s shredded. The fragments can help soil retain a healthy amount of moisture and moderate its temperature fluctuations in cold weather.

So, if you’re accustomed to thinking of fallen leaves as either a comfy winter blanket for your lawn or an infinite supply of annoying garbage, consider the possibility that they are actually a compact nutrition delivery system provided by nature at no cost to you. You can scatter the fragments over your lawn, or, if you have a garden, use them as mulch, add them to a compost pile, or mix them directly into soil. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, you can rake leaves into piles and run a lawn mower over them a few times.

Turning autumn leaves from a negative for your lawn into a positive is just one of the many pieces of helpful lawn maintenance advice you can find on our website. If you have questions that you don’t see addressed in our FAQs or blog, please contact us at 334-466-0600 or sales@southernlawns.net. All of us at Southern Lawns are here to help.