Don't rake your leaves—mulch 'em and leave 'em, some experts say
I recently read that some towns are encouraging residents to mulch their fall leaves and leave them to decompose right on their lawns, instead of the usual raking and removing. One such place is Westchester County in New York. I'm a big believer in mulching grass during the summer but I'd never heard of leaving mulched leaves on the lawn in fall. Having just spent another November dodging leaf piles on my morning walks (although my dog, Maggie, really enjoys bulldozing through them) this idea intrigues me.
Proponents of mulching leaves on lawns cite many advantages. They contend it improves soil quality and nutrition and also eliminates the cost of hauling leaves away. They note that leaf piles in gutters can leach nutrients into storm sewers, along with solid matter. Other negatives they cite are narrowing of streets, fire hazards and general messiness.
Now I'm pretty lazy and I'd prefer to skip raking in the fall, but I wonder how well this works. Has anyone tried this locally? How long does it take for the leaves to decompose—and do the shredded leaf bits blow around? I'm not sure I'll be brave enough to try this next year, but I'd like to hear what you think.
Janice Peterson has worked as a grounds horticulturist at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville since 2002. She is a master gardener with the Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association. Though her education is in plant science, she considers her love of gardening and strong back to be her true qualifications. Janice is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of The Gazette staff or management.