Is it possible to mulch too many leaves?

rutgers1(6NJ)November 7, 2007

The leaves are falling like crazy. Last year, I raked them. This year I am mulching them. I am wondering if there is such thing as mulching too many of them. Thus far, they appear to be breaking down relatively quickly between mows. However, it has gotten cold here over the past week and I assume that the decomposition will slow down.

What is the general rule in regards to mulching the leaves? If I have to bag for a week or two, that actually isn't that big of a deal since I can just throw them in the compost pile. But since I am introducing organic fertilizers this year I would love to return the leaves back to the soil!

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bpgreen(5UT)

If the leaves are thick enough that they're covering the grass and smothering it, they're too thick. Otherwise, feel free to continue mulch mosing them.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 10:02PM
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skoot_cat

I agree, you dont want to smother your grass. You could move or blow them to another location on the lawn where they are not as thick.

If I have to bag for a week or two, that actually isn't that big of a deal since I can just throw them in the compost pile.

Not a big deal at all. I find that if you use your mulch mower with the bag on, it helps to break the leaves up in the bag (for composting), it also returns some back to the soil. Win win situation.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 8:05AM
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kelleynelson

Rutgers, I just re-distribute them a little with the leaf blower, as someone else mentioned.

Each time you pass over the leaves they're also being chopped up a bit more and will more easily fall down to soil level.

If you have the ability, its nice to mulch occasionally as the leaves are falling rather than trying to grind them all up in one sitting.

You can also make two passes over the lawn in two different directions to further chop up the leaves.

When I let my dog out this morning, I finally saw the first frost on the grass in middlesex county.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 9:29AM
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iowa50126(z5IA)

When leaf burning and lawn solid waste laws were enacted Michigan State University looked at alternative ways to get rid of tree litter.

Part of the study was a multi-year study on mulch mowing leaves on turf grass.

In one study they tested 450 pounds of dry leaves in 1000sqft! It's an interesting article even though it's focus is on golf courses.

Click on the link below to see an article about the studies.

Here is a link that might be useful: MSU mulching leaf litter study

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 1:47PM
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rutgers1(6NJ)

Iowa...That is a great article!

I can only assume that the landscapers do not mulch the leaves because a particularly heavy fall of leaves would still be visible after they left, thus possibly irritating the homeowner. However, considering the leaves tend to disappear relatively early - particularly early in the fall - it should be an issue.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 2:57PM
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sandra_zone6

We mulch mow our leaves very early on when they first start to fall. Once they get going, we mulch but pick them up with our DR Lawn and Leaf vac. Even with the DR mulching down leaves 10 to 1, we pick up over 250 lbs of mulched leaves once a week for weeks. We pile it up in an area that we treat as a compost area, turn it over and as it breaks down, we distribute it back to the lawn and into my gardens. We'd have no grass at all if we left everything on the lawn. It can't break down fast enough and there just far too many leaves for it.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 6:09PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Sandra, in an earlier post you indicated that your lawn was an acre. An acre is 43,560 square feet. 250 lbs of leaves isn't very much spread over an acre. At 450lbs/1000 sq ft, we're talking a total of 19,602 lbs of leaves or roughly 10 tons.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 6:58PM
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sandra_zone6

Deerslayer, we've tried to mulch mow leaves into our lawn and smothered areas of it. If you'd care to visit some fall, stay for a few weeks, we'd be glad to let you be a part of our lawn clean up. Come to New England sometime and experience fall with our wonderful color and tons of leaves. I lived in the Midwest; Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana - no comparison to my part of the country. We pick up at least one full load of mulched leaves in our DR lawn vac weekly and this persists for weeks from September on through December.

If you want to mulch leaves into your 10ft wide area of grass - go for it.

Your post was rude, IMO.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 7:41PM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

"Your post was rude, IMO."

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I view my previous post as totally factual. It was basically math.

"If you want to mulch leaves into your 10ft wide area of grass - go for it."

Now there is a good example of rudeness. It's also misleading.

-Deerslayer

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 3:01AM
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iowa50126(z5IA)

One of the points in the Michigan State study on mulching leaves concerns the lack of equipment available for the job in the market place.

Most home owners are stuck with raking and bagging or mulching them with a lawn mower. Some people use a power lawn shredder/vacuum but, they need to be emptied often and it's a dusty dirty job.

Whats needed is a power device that will push like a mower and pulverize the leaves smaller than the conventional ratio of 10 to 1.

Of course, the other option is the one my frugal neighbor uses with the 20+ maple trees on his property. He just waits for the winter wind to blow them away. His method is called "benign neglect".(grin) It works every year!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 12:01PM
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morpheuspa

Good points, all. I also feed my garden remains out onto the lawn for chopping up and shredding in. Since the township no longer accepts ANY garden materials, that's the only way to get rid of it.

Now I need to buy a small chipper/shredder for the stems and twigs...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 11:47AM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

I have 2 60 foot oak trees in a small front yard. I've lived here for 11 years. The first ten years, I raked and bagged. The leaves would literally be knee deep.

Last year, I decided to mulch mow ALL of them into the yard. By spring, there was no remaining evidence that there'd been any leaves mulched into the yard. So I'm doing it again this year. Once or twice a week, I mow my yard one way, then mow it again perpendicular to the first mowing, to get the leaves into very small pieces.

After reading this article, I was glad I'd done it. Good to know I'm increasing the organic content of my soil:

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulching Tree Leaves

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 12:39AM
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brizzyintx

I've found a novel (at least in my opinion) approach to dealing with this problem.

Since I now mow with my deck at almost the highest setting, I've noticed that my mower doesn't mulch leaves nearly as well as when the deck was set much lower. It's as though the higher deck setting allows the leaves to be blown out from under the deck, rather than stay inside and be chopped to bits.

Last weekend, we had company coming over, so I decided to put the bag on the mower (still at the higher setting)when I ran over the leaves. After I was finished, I was surprised at how fewer leaves were in the bag than what I expected. Maybe only 20% of what I mowed over actually went into the bag. The rest must have been mulched.

So that's what I did again this weekend, with the same results. I put the bag on my mower. About 80% of the leaves get mulched and returned to the ground. The other 20% gets sucked into the bag and dumped onto the compost pile. And my yard is free from leaves... for another week.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 10:20AM
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