The past few weeks we have enjoyed the marvels of color portrayed in the leaves of many hardwood tree species, such as elm, oak, hickory, ash, sweet gum, etc., that we find within our landscapes. Unfortunately, as the weather cools and after a heavy frost or two, there becomes a payback. What should we do with the leaves once they float to the ground and cover our lawns?
While leaves can become excellent mulch or compost they should not be left intact on your lawn. Leaves lying on the turf canopy reduce light and air circulation necessary for healthy turf. With a layer of leaves covering the lawn attack and damage from diseases and insects can easily go unnoticed until the turf is totally destroyed. A blanket of leaves covering the turf will trap moisture between the soil and the leaves providing an ideal environment for the proliferation of pathogens such as large patch (rhizoctonia) and other diseases most prominent with the moderate temperatures of fall. Therefore, leaves should be periodically raked from the lawn and utilized in a compost pile or mulch for flowerbeds. A less preferred alternative is to continue to mow the lawn with a good mulching mower that will shred the leaves into tiny pieces that will fall into the turf canopy.
While there may not be any restrictions in your neighborhood about burning of leaves are bagging them for garbage pickup, I discourage you to use either of these disposal methods as the first creates a tremendous amount of smoke and air pollution as well as the risk of wildfires. Bagging is such a waste of the value of the leaves plus they fill our landfills unnecessarily.
Published November 13, 2006
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. email@example.com