Dreamstime

1Thing: Stop bagging your leaves right now

There's a better way for your lawn and the enviroment

Lindsey Peterson
October 30, 2018 - 2:48 pm
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Do you look out the windows at your back yard and see nothing but piles of leaves you’ll need to rake, bag and drag out to the curb?  Start looking at them another way.  Save yourself some backbreaking work and do something that will make your yard a healthier, greener space. 

You know that neighbor.  They’re out there every day making sure to scoop up any loose leaf that falls.  All those lawn bags?  They’re sitting in the landfill instead of actually doing the natural thing: helping make your lawn healthy. There are actually some cities that ban grass clippings from landfills because they’re too beneficial to waste! 

There is a better way. Mulch all those leaves with your lawnmower. A mulching mower (yes, different from your regular mower and more on that below) shreds those leaves and your grass clippings, evenly spreading them back on the lawn. 

What good does that do?  

For starters, it’s a terrific natural fertilizer for your yard. Mulch can help feed the bacteria in the soil under your lawn that makes it healthy. It also provides water-conserving shade for the grass. And maybe the best part? It can help control weeds - reducing them by as much as 100% according to a study by Michigan State University

Are you concerned about what the neighbors will think, or insist upon a “spotless lawn”?  Don’t worry. The brown bits and grass left behind is shredded to the point that it should filter through the grass and disappear from sight. And, considering how quickly Minnesota snow seems to arrive, you likely won't see it for long. 

Another great use is saving the mulch (using a bag system) and spreading it on your flower or vegetable garden. By the time you’re ready to plant in spring, the mulch will have melted right into your soil providing great fertilizer for the growing season. It’s also ideal for your compost (you have a compost bin, right?). 

What is a mulch mower?  Can you use your regular old push mower? 

A mulch mower is designed with a high deck, and is shaped so that the blade spins leaves and grass more than once as it cuts them into small pieces. You change the mower to it’s highest setting, remove any attached bag, and then mow the leaves and grass so that it all remains on the lawn. If you don’t have a mulching mower, you can buy a mulching blade form a hardware store for your traditional mower. Mulching blades have special serrated edges that shred the leaves. Even though a blade doesn't work as effectively as specially-designed mulching mowers because it can't re-circulate the leaves, it’s better than nothing. 

The optimum time to mulch is when you can still see some grass poking through the leaves. Depending on your lawn, you may have to do it more than once a week to keep up with the leaves. Still, that’s a lot better than having to rake the whole lawn! 

Experts recommend spreading the mulch in the fall rather than waiting until spring. If you don’t give it the winter to decompose, the process of biodegrading can compete with grass, plants, vegetables and flowers for nutrients just when those organisms need it most. 

In the end, you’ll save time and you’ll save money. It’s faster and easier than raking. You’ll help cover the areas of your lawn where dandelions and crabgrass can germinate, and you’ll reduce the need to add harmful chemicals to your lawn. 

It’s just 1Thing, and the benefits go far beyond saving your landfill from a yard’s worth of leaves! 

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