CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Leaves are Finally Falling

Tony Koski
Extension Turf Specialist

Tree leaves can be easily mulched into your lawn using
your lawnmower

Although some trees (cottonwoods, aspen) have been losing leaves all summer and fall (due to disease), others are just beginning to let go this past week. As my co-hortie Alison wrote about last year at this time, the easiest way of dealing with all of those leaves is to mow/mulch them into the lawn. Go here to read about all of the reasons why this is a good idea – and the many ways in which tree leaves benefit your lawn.

A question we often get regarding mowing leaves into the lawn is: What if I have too many leaves and the lawn gets buried by mowed, shredded leaves? If you mow the leaves frequently enough, this is unlikely to happen. But sometimes there are so many leaves that you can’t see the grass anymore because the mulched leaves are so deep. Or maybe you are just super fastidious about your lawn and you don’t want to mulch the leaves? What can be done with those piles and bags of leaves?

Chopped leaves make
a nice mulch for veggies
First, don’t just ignore them and leave them all winter. When leaves get wet from snow and rain, they can form a thick, slippery, mushy layer on the lawn surface. This can smother and kill the lawn and matted leaves create conditions ideal for the development of snow mold diseases. And don’t just bag them up and leave them on the curb for trash pick-up. Tree leaves can be used in your landscape in other ways if you have too many – or don’t want to mow them into the lawn.

Use chopped tree leaves for
mulch in your flowerbeds
Leaves are excellent for mulching flowerbeds, around trees and shrubs, and in vegetable gardens. Bag the leaves using your mower’s bagging attachment. This will shred the leaves so that they are easier to use for mulch and are less likely to blow away. The leaves will decompose, adding organic matter to your garden soil. Earthworms are voracious consumers of tree leaves, hastening their decomposition in gardens and when returned to the lawn.

Shredded tree leaves can quickly be turned into an
excellent compost
Tree leaves can be easily and quickly composted – either through traditional composting or by vermicomposting. Just remember that tree leaves are “browns” and must be balanced with an appropriate amount of “greens” for optimal composting to take place.

If you just don’t like using leaves in your landscape or have too many to handle, give them to a friend who is into composting or take them to a yard waste recycling facility. Don’t send them to the landfill.


  1. I agree with putting thin leaves in the garden (like my wisteria leaves, which I leave where they fall), but not waxy ones like those from cottonwoods. Even after a year of cols-composting shreds, they are still plate-like and smothering, and the waxiness keeps out water.

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