It's that Time of the Year - Mow, Don't Rake!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 11:10am

It's time to run the "Mow Your Leaves for a Better Environment!" reminder again!

One of the lessons we learned in preparation for the Sandy Storm was to remove leaves from gutters and stormdrains as the piles would block the gutters and drains causing flooding.  In at least one neighborhood, there was a collective effort Sunday before the storm to clear everything out so the water would flow freely.

This is just another reason to MOW your leaves.  Why waste time raking and hauling when you can leave those leaves in place and mow them into your lawn!

Big piles of leaves by the curb, a certain sign of autumn and lots of fun for kids to jump in. What could be wrong with that? Not to be the Grinch Who Stole Leaf Pile Jumping, but everything. Leaves in the gutter make their way to the creek where they decompose and cause nutrient bloom. Leaves in the gutter mean no leaves around the base of your trees where they provide an organic blanket for the trees during the winter. Leaves in the gutter mean you are wasting valuable nutrients for your lawn.

So, this year, take a tip from Winterthur, the spectacular DuPont gardens in Delaware and mow your leaves right on the lawn.

From a Washington Post article

For more than 20 years, the gardeners at this expansive and famously leafy estate have been mowing leaves with (...) lawn mowers. The machines inhale the leaves, chop them into shreds and deposit them as the mower moves along. Engine noise is confined to the muted chug of the mower, not the incessant high-pitch whine of the leaf blower.And there are no bags to unhook and drag anywhere, just a confetti-like litter left on the grass. Ripped into morsel-size pieces, the flakes melt away in two or three weeks as microbes and worms do their work of enriching the soil.

It is such a simple system that (Chris) Strand, garden director, and Long, assistant garden curator, wonder why it hasn't caught on. They are certainly converts in their own gardens. "I spend a fraction of the time I used to spend raking and transporting leaves," says Strand.

This process is endorsed by none other than the Scotts Fertilizer Company. On their website, they recommend you

Take the grass catcher off your mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. You want to reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. You'll know you're done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf bits settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up. With several passes of your mower, you can mulch up to 18 inches of leaf clutter.

So, give your rake a rest, save the local government some money and help the environment all by mowing your leaves. It works for the Winterthur Estates and it will work for you. When spring arrives, you'll see great results. The leaf litter you mowed this fall will have disappeared. And your grass will look greener than ever.

And if your children need a pile to jump it, rake them one and when they're jumped out, put those leaves under your trees and around your shrubs. Free and beautiful mulch!