Having trees in your yard enhances the landscape, benefits the environment, provides shelter and homes to birds and other local wildlife, and gives you a nice shady spot to sit and enjoy a nice tall glass of sweet tea on hot summer evenings. Those same trees also provide you with an enormous pile of leaves that need to be dealt with each spring.
You don’t want to ignore the leaves. It takes a surprisingly long time for them to break down and until they do, they impede spring grass growth. Additionally, small rodents, will see the piles of leaves as an open invitation to move into your yard. In the long run, it’s best to set aside one or two afternoons to clean up the fallen leaves. Before you can do that, you have to decide if you want to rake them up, or mulch them.
There are pros and cons connected to both mulching and raking fall leaves.
Should You Mulch
If you have a big yard with lots of trees or you’re strapped for time, mulching will probably be your best bet. Mulching the leaves won’t take you any more time than it does to mow your lawn. The mulching breaks down the leaves into smaller bits, which completely decompose and add nutrients to your yard, decreasing the amount of fertilizer you have to apply to your lawn next spring.
The downside to mulching is that you might have to do it multiple times this fall if your trees shed their leaves slowly, or you’re dealing with an enormous carpet of leaves that needs multiple passes to break them down. Plus, you still might have to rake the leaves if the layer is too thick to break down or it doesn’t spread evenly enough. Ideally, the layer of mulched leaves shouldn’t be more than one-fourth to three-eighths inch thick.
The biggest drawback to mulching is that there’s always a chance that the leaves will provide a breeding ground for a fungus that negatively impacts the health of your lawn.
Should You Rake
Raking is more time consuming than mulching fallen leaves, but it does encourage physical activity which is one of the reasons so many people prefer raking to mulching. Many also rake the leaves into piles and deposit them into their compost piles which they later spread back on their yard as eco-friendly, carbon-rich, fertilizer.
Raking up the leaves and bagging them removes them from the yard, eliminating the potential for bald spots in the yard the following year. When a layer of leaves is left untouched, it can prevent the grass from getting the sunlight and water needed to grow properly.