The truth is, you don’t have to rake leaves. But before you get too excited, you also can’t just leave them lying on your lawn. If you have kids, definitely get out the rake and create some piles for fall-tastic jumping and playing, but once the fun’s over, you will need to decide what to do with all those leaves.
If you don’t remove the fallen leaves, your grass will suffer. In the fall and winter, your grass still needs sunlight, water and air to stay healthy, even during dormancy. Leaves, especially large overlapping leaves, can prevent these important elements from reaching your grass.
Fallen leaves can also trap water at the soil surface, creating overly moist conditions that invite disease such and mold or fungi, and may even cause root rot.
Raking or mulching the leaves helps keeps moisture levels stable and allows sunlight and fresh air to circulate, keeping your grass happier.
Avoid Raking Leaves
You don’t have to rake the leaves, but you do have to remove them from your grass. Use a mulching mower, or raise the deck on a standard mower to the highest position and run over the leaves in two perpendicular directions to break the leaves into small bits.
The bits will make their way down to the soil surface where they will break down further and feed your lawn potassium and phosphorus. The bits will also cover the soil surface, discouraging crabgrass, dandelions and other unwanted weeds.
If you have an excessive number of leaves, consider breaking some into medium size bits and using them as mulch around trees and shrubs. They will help discourage weeds while protecting your plants through the winter.
In addition, many pollinators, like bees and moths, rely on fallen leaves as habitats for the winter. Allow fallen leaves to remain along fence rows, on top of mulched beds and in other places where they won’t adversely affect plants or grass.
How to Rake Leaves
Rather than mow or blow, some people actually prefer to use a rake. It is certainly quieter and uses less gasoline—plus leaf raking counts as exercise. Although it’s a fairly straightforward task, follow these basic raking do’s and don’ts to help protect your grass.
- DO use a broad, lightweight leaf rake that glides easily over the grass.
- DON’T rip or tear at the grass, and never use heavy garden rake to remove leaves.
- DO use small light strokes so the rake and leaves move easily. It will be better for you and the grass.
- DON’T rake leaves when they are wet. Leaves don’t cooperate when wet, causing people to use more force, which increases the likelihood of damage to the grass beneath.
- DO wear a dust mask, especially when conditions are dry or if you suffer from allergies.