Should you rake up your leaves in the fall? This has been a controversial topic for several years now.
Advocates for not doing fall leaf cleanups say “leave the leaves” and simply mulch them in with your lawnmower, just as you would with grass clippings. The leaves will break down providing nutrients for the lawn and trees. This may be good for the trees, but not so much for the lawn. Here’s why:
Leaves are acidic. The leaves from hardwood trees in the Northeast, like oaks and maples, are high in tannins and tend to make the soil acidic. Turf grass prefers a neutral pH, and soil in New Hampshire is naturally acidic. Mulching-in acidic leaf matter is counterproductive to trying to maintain a neutral, pH-balanced soil for optimal lawn growth.
Leaves are high in carbon. This means that they require large amounts of nitrogen to break down. Turf grass also consumes large amounts of nitrogen. The composting leaves will rob the turf grass of nitrogen that it needs to grow – the nitrogen we have been applying to your lawn all year.
Leaves are safe places for insects and disease. In the fall, your lawn is preparing for winter. Excessive moisture and shade promotes fungus like snow mold that will create problems in the spring. Some turf insects like chinch bugs or fall webworm can overwinter in the leaf debris. It is counterproductive to applying insect controls to the lawn if you are allowing them safe haven for the winter!
Sunlight is limited the fall. Your grass has a growing period of about six weeks in autumn. It needs this time to store energy reserves for the winter. Leaf matter on top of your grass will limit your lawn’s ability to produce food. Sunlight also helps to dry off the dew, preventing mold from taking root.
So, now you know where Groundhog Turf Care stands on the topic of leaving your leaves on your lawn in the fall! Not that we are against composting – you should add your yard waste to a compost pile and create good organic rich soil – then use it to top dress your lawn with after it has become soil.
Groundhog Turf Care provides leaf cleanup services for all of its lawn care customers upon request. Call early to have our team schedule yours today!