Triple Your Benefits
Cut the grass, recycle fall leaves and improve the soil with a pass of the lawn mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall. As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine.
Shredding leaves and leaving them on the lawn is good for the grass and saves you time. As the leaves break down they add organic matter to the soil, improving drainage in clay soil and water holding ability in sandy soils. It’s a great way to recycle a valuable natural resource and reduce your workload. You can increase the environmental benefit even further by using an electric mower to both cut your grass and shred the leaves.
Further improve your lawn’s health with fall fertilization. Fall fertilization is the most beneficial practice for home lawns. Less disease problems and slower weed growth means your lawns — not the pests — benefit from the nutrients. Fall fertilization also helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer because it encourages deep roots and denser growth that can better compete with weeds and tolerate disease and insects.
Use a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer for best results. Pick a fertilizer that is slow release and resists leaching. Its phosphorus and organic nitrogen stay in the root zone for the plants to use over a long period of time. And, it is good for the environment since the nutrients resist leaching into the groundwater and nearby well.
Less Work, Better Results
Let healthy perennials stand for winter. The seed heads add beauty to the winter landscape and provide food for the birds. Plus, research has found perennials left standing are better able to tolerate the rigors of winter.
Be sure to remove any diseased or insect-infested plants to reduce the source of pest problems in next year’s garden. Use any extra fall leaves as mulch. Shred the leaves with your mower and spread a layer over the soil to conserve moisture and insulate the perennials’ roots. Not only are the leaves free, but also using them as mulch is good for your garden and the environment. Fall mulching gives you a jump on next spring’s landscape chores.
Shredded leaves also make a good mulch for over bulbs. Plant daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths in the fall for extra color next spring. Set the bulbs at a depth of 2-to-3 times their height. Cover with soil, sprinkle on a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer and water. The low nitrogen slow release fertilizer promotes rooting without stimulating fall growth subject to winter kill. The leaf mulch helps conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature fluctuations and eventually improves the soil.
Dig ‘Em In
Still more leaves? Then shred them with the mower and dig them into vacant annual flower and vegetable gardens or incorporate them as you prepare new planting beds. You will be amazed at how quickly these leaves turn into organic matter and improve your garden’s soil. Add a little slow release fertilizer to feed the microorganisms and speed up their decomposition.
Or use the shredded leaves in your compost pile. Combine fall leaves with other plant waste, a bit of soil or compost, and a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer to create compost. Recycling yard waste saves time bagging, hauling and disposing of green debris. You also reduce or eliminate the need to buy soil to improve your existing garden soil.
So put away the rake and find creative ways to save time and money as you put fall leaves to work in your landscape.