The winter is a great time to take advantage of all of the fallen leaves that lay on your lawn. You may be tempted to ignore the leaves since your grass and plants are dying or dead, but fallen leaves can make conditions worse for your lawn when the spring comes around again. Prepare for maximum growth during the warmer months by mulching your leaves or turning them into usable compost. You can always hire an Austin or San Antonio lawn service to help if you don’t want to do this work on your own.
How to Mulch Your Leaves
The simplest way to turn your leaves into mulch is to shred them using a leaf shredder. Leaf shredders are made to handle large loads of fallen leaves and cut them into small, usable pieces to make an aerated mulch.
If you don’t have a leaf shredder available, you can still use your lawn mower to shred leaves. Lower the blade on your mower so that it can reach the lowest layer of leaves and mow over them as if you were mowing your lawn normally. The lawnmower blades will cut the leaves into mulch-sized pieces so you can rake them into a mulch pile.
Shredding your leaves has these advantages:
- Reduces the surface area of the leaves
- Prevents leaves from sticking and amassing
- Stop insects and pests from making a home under the leaves
- Keeps excessive moisture from pooling between the leaves and lawn
Reduces Surface Area
Leaves with a smaller surface area are easier for microorganisms to consume and create biological waste. The waste from microbes is what provides nutrients to your lawn.
Prevents Leaves from Amassing
Wet, fallen leaves will stick together and create an organic glue that forms a ceiling over your lawn. The thick layer of leaves keeps out oxygen and sunlight, which are essential to plant growth.
Stops Insects and Pests
Bugs that eat the roots and leaves of your plants love to nestle underneath the warmth and moisture of your fallen leaves. Shredding leaves keeps them away from your lawn.
Keeps away moisture
A ceiling of leaves stops water on your grass and plants from evaporating. Excess water can choke out plants, overhydrate roots, and allow for unchecked growth of bacteria.
You can leave shredded leaves on your lawn to be absorbed into the soil, but if you want to maximize the potential of your leaves, turn them into leaf mold.
Rake and bag your leaves after you’ve shredded them. Store them in a cool place where they can still interact with moisture. By the time spring rolls around, your leaves will be ready for use.
Leaf mold is created by fungi, not bacteria. It composts slowly in the cold. Leaves that have been stored for 2-3 years are at their prime potency.
When spread as a fertilizer, leaf mold retains the water that is normally lost by the spring and summer sun. It holds up to 500 percent of its own weight in water. This is especially helpful in tropical climates, where water is evaporated almost immediately from harsh soils. The moisture retention helps keep roots, blades, and leaves cool and moisturized.
Be careful about lowering the blade too much on the leaves. Mowing your leaves too short can expose the roots of your lawn to the harsh elements of the cold weather. Lower the mower blades just enough to maintain the root structure of the grass, but also to mulch those leaves.
Composting can be done with whole or shredded fallen leaves. Just add them to a pile full of organic waste to begin the composting process.
A good compost pile will include anything organic that ends up unused from your home, including:
- Egg Shells
- Coffee Grounds
- Uneaten Vegetable Parts
- Shredded Newspaper
- Wood Chips
- Grass Clippings
Keep the pile sectioned off from the rest of your yard with bricks or cinderblocks. Allow the organic material to be processed by microbes. Bacteria and fungi will break down organic matter into essential nutrients for plant life.
Once the compost has been processed, you can spread it like you would fertilizer over your lawn or garden.