Leaves: Should You Rake or Mow?

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder
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fall leavsFall is a beautiful time of year, especially now that the leaves are changing colors. In a few weeks, however, these leaves become extra work for those homeowners who have trees in their yards. Thick layers of fallen leaves can shade out the grass underneath so they must be dealt with. Homeowners have a couple of options on what to do with their fallen leaves.

Probably the easiest option is to simply mow the leaves into little pieces. Shredded leaves break down much more quickly than whole leaves. These leaves also return nutrients back to the soil. If a thick leaf layer covers the lawn, then mowing a couple of times may be necessary to break the leaves down to an acceptable level.

Homeowners may not be happy with the mowing method since pieces of leaves will be visible for a while. If the leaves are raked up, the next problem is what to do with them. Some local municipalities will collect them from the homeowners as long as they are bagged or piled in a place for collection.

Collected leaves can be added to the vegetable garden and tilled in. Leaves that are tilled into the soil improve the soil structure, especially in our heavy clay soils. Leaves added to the garden soil will also add back nutrients but not enough to completely eliminate the need for some fertilizers.

Another option is to add the leaves to a compost bin. Composting is an excellent way to convert yard waste into a material that can be added back to the landscape. In order to get faster composting, the leaves should be shredded before adding them to the compost pile. The Wilkes Cooperative Extension Center has a brochure on the different types of compost bins and how to build the compost pile. Please come by and pick one up or call us at 336.651.7330 or 336.651.7331 and request one be mailed to you.