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Skip the raking — mulch your leaves instead

You can actually improve your landscape by not bagging your leaves.

COLORADO, USA — It’s the time of year when we need to think about raking. But what if we told you that not raking would be better for your yard?

Yes, it’s great news: You can stop raking. 

You can actually improve your landscape by not bagging your leaves. 

Instead, you can mulch your leaves and leave them on the lawn. Mulched leaves will bio-degrade, providing nutrients to the grass roots, micro-organisms, and worms in your landscape. They also help regulate the soil temperature when it gets cold, retains moisture in soil on dry days, and will reduce weed propagation next year.

By not raking, you can help improve the soil and the landscape for next spring. 

That’s the good news. But you can’t simply let them sit on the lawn when they fall. No, you’ll still have to do a little bit of work to mulch to the leaves. If you have flower beds or other non-turf areas, you should rake or use a blower to put all of the leaves onto the grass. Then, run your mower without the grass catcher. If you have a mulch setting, make sure that is in place. You might need to do this a couple of times to break up all of the leaves. The goal is to break down the leaves so that they can decompose more quickly and so that they are not “suffocating” the lawn by covering all of your grass.

But before you mulch, wait until the leaves are dry. 

Trying to mulch or mow wet leaves will only leave you with a clogged mower. When they are dry and crunchy, it’s time to put on your safety gear and get to work. Professionals are required to wear personal protection equipment, and you should do the same. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants (without the grass catcher, you risk getting hit on the legs with sticks or rocks that could be hiding under the leaves). Gloves, safety glasses, and ear protection are also recommended. And don’t wear sandals—boots are best since with leaves everything may look level when in fact it is not.

Once your mower is ready, your leaves are dry, and you have safety gear on, you can simply mow and leave everything — mulched grass and lawn clippings — on your lawn. 

But if you have excess debris—maybe there are some piles of mulched leaves in spaces—you can put that extra mulch on your vegetable garden, flower beds, or around your trees and shrubs. The idea is not to let leaves get away. Use them somewhere in your landscape instead of bagging them and throwing them away. Mulching is great because we are not putting more trash into our landfills, it benefits our landscape, and the following year it will reduce the fertilizer we will need.