Here in the Omaha area, trees are dropping their leaves and it is important to prevent a heavy layer of leaves from building-up on your turf before winter. Heavy layers of tree leaves that shade the grass can smother and kill grass yet this fall. Plus tree leaf cover favors snow mold, which should still be fresh in our mind from last year's damage. If you choose not to compost them on site, the easiest way to dispose of leaves is to simply mow them in to the turf.
Cool-season turfgrasses require mowing well in to the fall anyway, so regular mowing during the fall will chop the leaves in to small pieces and allow them to filter in to the turf. Research at Purdue and other Midwestern universities shows that tree leaves can be mulched without any detrimental effects on the soil or turf. Actually, just the opposite may be true where tree leaf mulching may help improve the soil and/ or turf.
Not only is mulching leaves with a mower much easier than raking, blowing, and/ or vacuuming the leaves like we have done in the past, other benefits include:
- Minimizes waste in landfills.
- Reduces municipal costs for leaf pick-up and disposal.
- Improved water infiltration in to the soil.
- Helps reduce a source of phosphorus in our surface waters. A number of studies reported total P in urban runoff is highest in fall at the time of leaf drop. Tree leaves moved to the streets could leach phosphorus, which could move in to the storm drains and eventually in to rivers and streams. Keeping them on the turf will allow for better absorption of leached phosphorus.
- May help reduce broadleaf weeds on very low maintenance areas.
Turf iNfo for the North Central US | University of Nebraska – Lincoln turf.unl.edu