Leaf mulching and fertilizer: A back-saving, soil-enriching way to deal with fallen leaves

November 11, 2009

Courtesy of ARA Content

As Mother Nature adorns the trees in your yard with riotous reds, vibrant yellows and exotic oranges, you can easily get swept up in the romance of the season—until those leaves turn brown, drop from the branches and litter your lawn. Then, you start to think of the hours of backbreaking raking work ahead of you.

This autumn, why not try working with Mother Nature by mulching those leaves instead of raking, bagging and condemning them to a landfill?

Leaf mulching is a time-saving, environmentally-friendly way to deal with fallen leaves. Plus, if you live in a community that has cut back on collection services because of the economy, mulching can solve your dilemma of what to do with the leaves littering your lawn.

“It doesn’t make sense to rake leaves and bag them, just to have them end up decomposing in a landfill,” says Dr. Phil Dwyer, senior scientist at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “Leaf mulching recycles a natural resource and enriches the soil of your lawn for free.”

In fact, turf benefits by receiving more nutrients when you mulch fall leaves back into the lawn instead of raking them, according to a study by Michigan State University turfgrass researcher Thom Nikolai and ScottsMiracle-Gro scientists. Recycling fallen leaves saves time and money, adds nutrients to the soil, speeds spring greening and reduces weeds.

Here’s how to recycle this fall’s crop of fallen leaves:

υ Remove the grass catcher from your lawn mower. Mow over the leaves on your lawn. Repeat until they are reduced to dime-sized pieces.

υ Mow until you see about half an inch of grass through the mulched leaf layer.

Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and all kinds of leaves can be mulched. Throughout the season, you can chop up to 18 inches total of leaf clutter with several passes of the mower. Having a somewhat thick layer of mulched leaves is OK as long as you can still see the green grass blades poking through. As leaf bits settle into the ground, microbes and worms get to work recycling them.

Once you’ve enriched your soil with leaf mulching, don’t forget that fall is the best time to feed and seed your lawn. A few simple steps can help ensure that your lawn will be strong next season and beyond:

υ After mulching, feed your lawn with Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard fall lawn fertilizer to help build strong, deep roots for a better foundation and a more robust lawn next year. The nitrogen in the fertilizer will also help the mulched leaves decompose faster. Be sure to sweep excess fertilizer off hard surfaces like driveways and sidewalks.

υ After feeding, spread seed where needed. To reseed your bare spots, dig up bare areas, mix in compost, sow your seeds and cover with more compost. If the weather is dry, keep the seeded soil moist until new grass begins to grow. Seeding autumn bare spots will thicken the lawn and make it more resistant to future bare spots.

To learn more about leaf mulching and autumn lawn care, visit www.scotts.com.

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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