We just moved into our first house. We have woods at the back of the
very large yard, and many large, mature trees on our property as well as
the surrounding neoghbors'. I love autumn, love big piles of leaves,
love to play in the piles with the kids, etc. I have no aesthetic
problem with leaves being all over the place, prefer it, actually as it
is my favorite season and I am not that enchanted with the typical
suburban lawn scenario (which I intend to remedy on my own property over
time), and chose a property with woods at the back because we really
like to be near the natural beauty.
We are not in a new, fancy neighborhood with one of those associations
with rules, and as far as I can see while perusing the local ordinances
for various information regarding fencing and such, while being expected
to keep up the property to a reasonable degree, there is nothing
specific about cleaning up leaves. I don't know yet what the communal
expectations are for this neighborhood.
My question is, why does everyone generally work themselves into a
lather cleaning up the leaves? Is it damaging to the lawn or garden? I
would think the opposite would be true, in this 4-season climate.
My mother says that in her neighborhood, if the neighbor cleaned up
their leaves and you didn't do yours and they proceeded to blow over
onto the clean yard, there would be a problem. I'd prefer to just not
bother, again not out of laziness or whatever, but because I like them
and I don't really see the point.
Enough leaves can smother your grass. And the grass of your neighbors. And
In addition, if you don't deal with the leaves when they come down, you'll
have to deal with most of 'em when your grass starts growing again in the
You'll probably have to make the choice: A Lawn, or Leaves.
Sure, leaves add nutrients (very little though, without some green matter
mixed in) back into the soil, AFTER they break down. By themselves, they
take a LONG time to break down, especially if they're left whole. As they
build up, get wet (from rain, dew, snow, etc.), they mat down.
By then they'll be one really big mass of nothing but leaves, blocking out
all the things that the lawn (Remember the lawn? It's what's buried beneath
that big mat.) needs. Sunlight can't get in. Very little water can get in,
as it sheets off of the leaves. Oh, what doesn't evaporate or get drank by
some animal will eventually get there, but it will be far too little, far
too late. Forget about any food getting to the lawn. If water can't get
through, then there's very little chance of some little pellet making it.
Leaves make a good mulch because they block out light, water, and oxygen,
because they mat down. What makes them effective at blocking weeds, will
also be effective for blocking grass from growing.
Not to mention, that now that the turf grass is not dense enough to help
combat weeds, they'll be the first to thrive when the leaves are removed.
Unless of course you've got one heckuva cool season grass for a lawn, and
it can get thick again by spring. =)
It also makes a nice, dark "highway system" for unwanted pests to make
their way to even more unwanted places.
This was probably a really simplified answer, but I think you'll get my
meaning. You'd surely be able to keep the leaves around longer if you're
not really worried about a nice lawn, if you so choose. And if you *are*
worried about a nice lawn, then you'll probably find yourself doing more
rigorous lawn maintenance during the rest of the year to keep it that way.
JMO, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. =)
-Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake
You're bound to get one or two heavy winds between now and spring. Guess
where the leaves are gonna go? That's right, your neighbors place. If you
want to have the leafy lawn, get ya bout 5 acres and build the home in the
middle of it. Leave the land boundary natural.
In deeper end of fall, leaves lying on the grass is no big deal. In cooler
times, the grass would be going dormant anyway. If the grass is to survive
the following year, the leaves have to come off the ground substantially.
There is also a problem of downwind collection of leaves by shrub-like
But existence of a lawn may not be the case here, and not mentioned. Do
have a lawn? Your immediate neighbors?
Why not just mow them, it breaks them down to mulch, it isn't really
much work, it destroys their ability to take flight and annoy the
neighbors. I've been doing that for 40 years, and my lawn is better for
Likewise -- just mow the lawn with the leaves still there, they get
shredded by the mower and settle down into the grass, can't block light
or water, and don't fly away any more. Works fine for me with maple,
apple, and weeping willow leaves. (This assumes you haven't fallen for
the bagging mower business -- if you're stuck with a bagger, mowing the
leaves just fills up the bag really fast.)
firstname.lastname@example.org is Joshua Putnam
Mowing with a mulching mower is a good partial solution for anyone that
has lots of trees nearby. You can do it in the beginning, and you can
do it at the end of the leaf fall period. But if you have a property
surrounded by trees, there is no alternative to removing them. If you
mulch that many, you will bury and kill the turf.
I beg to differ, I'm not only surrounded by trees, it is our main
theme, we have around 100 trees and that is probably a conservative
estimate. Around 50 % of those are pines, so no leaf problem there, but
there are 30+ fruit / nut trees 2 large oaks, some many decades old
most around 15 yrs old, so we generate a few leaves. I mow wide open
throttle with an open discharge chute & use high vac bagging blades, it
comes out as a coarse powder.
If 50% of your trees are pines, then you must recoginze that you have a
much different situation, with far less leaves than someone who has a
house surrounded on 3 sides by woods with large trees with heavy
leaves. Also, consider what it would be like if those fruit trees
were instead oaks, that grow much larger and produce far more leaves.
It doesn't matter how fine of a powder you turn leaves into. If you
try to do that with enough of them and don't remove the ground leaves,
it will cover and kill the grass.
I agree mulching can work up to some point. I do it myself. But if
you have a house surrounded on 3 sides by nearby dense woods with lawn
in between, it doesn't work. You can do it some in the beginning, and
you can do it again near the end of the process. But much of the
leaves have to be removed, one way or another.
Thanks for the info, everyone. I suspect that the sheer quantity of
leaves I expect to fall will be way too many to leave and will indeed
smother the grass. (The entire property is lawn, save for the above
ground pool and playhouse in the back, and a bit of shrubbery around the
edges of the house.) We'll probably follow a plan incorporating both
ideas given here: maybe do one big cleanup, then mow over the rest, as
we plan to buy a mulching/side discharge type of mower. (Suggestions
We're planning to eventually expand/reconfigure the drive and walkway in
the front and change much of the rest of the lawn there to a garden and
native species type of situation. (Need to do more research on that.)
We'll eventually add a patio in the back and a couple of good sized
raised garden beds, that should do away with a good portion of the lawn!
We'll likely only mow the "back 40" of the yard, nearest the woods, a
few times a year, as it seems many of the neighbors do. Whatever we do
back there, it will be a bit on the rustic side, maybe turn it into
more of a wildflower garden or habitat of some sort. Compost back there,
woodpile, places for boys to dig and explore, etc.
I'm making it sound huge, the whole property is only .38 acres, but
still pretty sizable for an average neighborhood, and compared to
anything we've ever had charge of before. It's narrow, but very deep at
I agree with Jim after reading your posts as well, so good luck with your
place. Here is what I do. I have plenty of grass that is bordered by
woods. I use my mower to blow all the leaves back off of the grass and into
the woods. It chops it up a bit along the way and some of the finely
chopped stuff remains in the grass to feed it a little bit. If you let it
go too long it becomes somewhat tedious as the mower is trying to blow too
much stuff and bogs up, so keep up with it just with your regular mowings.
Hope this helps,
I alternate between plain mowing and bagging with my garden tractor.
When I bag my 1 acre lot ( probably 3/4 acre of lawn), I may have to
empty the aftermarket 3 bushel bagger about 4 times during the mowing.
Like you, I have a large wooded area at the back of my property. I empty
the clippings and leaves into a big pile at the woods edge and let them
compost. The pile gets up to 4 feet tall and then drops to about 2 feet
tall as it decays and I use it. The bottom of the pile is about 20 years
old. I don't have a vegetable garden, but do some digging and planting
at times, even if only grass seed. I have clay soil and the addition of
the compost into the soil makes it more nutritious for the plantings.
I live in the NE US and leaving whole leaves on the lawn over the winter
just makes a slimy, black leaf blanket over the ground in the spring.
Not too much fun playing in them.
Yes. It will smother both of them, so you better start getting you gear
ready for the clean up cycle now. Do -not- let them pile up unless you
don't give a damn about what is growing under them. The clean up is a whole
lot easier if you maintain them as they fall too. imo
My property is surrounded by trees on the perimeter. I'm sort of out in
the country, on a 3 acre lot, with a fairly wide buffer of scrub woods
between me & the neighbors, so I don't really need to or care to be
concerned about the leaves blowing issue.
I do however have a fair amount of lawn (not very pristine) that I like
to keep reasonably nice looking. I handle the leaves much the same as
others who replied. I run the mower over them, blowing them mostly into
the woods. I try to go out with the mower pretty frequently in fall, so
that I'm blowing / chopping leaves while they are still dry & have not
gotten very deep. They basically disappear into the lawn once chopped up
by the mower. If it rains while the leaves are thick on the ground, they
will indeed mat down & possibly choke out the grass.
Dead leaves on the ground are good for keeping the ground clear of the
majority of the surface foliage. Nature thing. That said, you don't want
it on your lawn. Mow em, rake em, or if old hat in rural area without a
burn ban in effect, rake em and burn em. Lotsa leaves, no grass (lawn), if
no one cares, why should you? Its not a fire hazard even with a semblance
of decent rainfall.
My lawn is immediately around the house. Live in rural area. I can pretty
much do what I want regarding to lawn and raking leaves or not. No trees
near house except for a patch of some live oaks on west side. Once a year,
these drop their leaves. I don't care. Neither does the grass due to the
prevailing wind conditions in early spring.
Just one note. Keep the trees back away from the house due to potential
fire hazard from jumping treetops if near the "woods". "Purty" (pretty)
trees can destroy your house, and possibly take you and your family as well.
A good rule for a fire block area is 50 feet plus the height of the highest
tree in horizontal distance except in the worst wind conditions. Be safe,
This is how you do it. After most of the leaves have fallen, grab the kids
and rake all the leaves in to huge piles. Then you dive in them, tunnel
thorugh them and get lots of pictures. Then you get those great big orange
leaf bags that look like a pumpkin and have the kids stuf them in there for
decoration. As everyone said, your lawn will suffer and bugs will make
their home there.
As far as not being enchanted with the burbs, my front yard can hold it's
own to anyones, that is where I grow flowers and plants that I like, but the
back is trees, with paths, a brooke and NO grass!
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