New Study about Mulching Leaves

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by tiedeman, Nov 27, 2004.

  1. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    A new study out that I just read from Purdue, Michigan State, and some other, that says mulching leaves is actually really good for the lawn.

    Ya, ya I know we already know that. But their research indicates that the mulching does not change the lawns chemistry, cause disease, or growth problems.

    Just thought that I would share. I would post the article, but its from a rival site :blush:
  2. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    Here is the article instead of the link to the article:

    Mike Goatley is the kind of guy we couch potatoes appreciate most on football-rich fall afternoons. The Virginia Tech extension turf specialist preaches the gospel of "leave them alone" lawn leaf management.

    There’s nothing wrong with blowing, vacuuming or raking downed leaves – especially if you’re trying to spot errant golf balls or keep your grass from being matted down over winter. Disposal is the problem.

    "One of the biggest things we’re trying to get away from is putting these things in bags and dumping them in a landfill," Goatley says. "At the same time, you’re improving the organic matter in your soil."

    The technique has been used for years, he says. But "there’s quite a bit of data out there now (from Purdue, Michigan State and Cornell universities) indicating this is the way to manage those leaves."

    In other words, crank up your mulching-capable lawn mower first when the leaves start piling up in autumn.

    A Purdue University report details the responses of a perennial ryegrass lawn to the addition of as much as two tons of maple leaves per acre per application.

    Mowing the leaves into fine pieces and filtering them through the turf doesn’t degrade lawn color or quality, introduce diseases or weeds, the report says. Over time, the shredded leaves decompose, enriching the topmost soil layers.

    Mower mulching also saves time and money that would be unnecessarily spent on bagging and dumping. Composting leaves directly into the turf doesn’t mean you should stop fertilizing, however.

    "I don’t think leaf recycling is a substitute for a sound fertilizing program," Goatley says. "Mother Nature has already removed a lot of nitrogen from those leaves. The microbes needed to further break them down also need some nitrogen.

    "Fall fertilization of cold-season grass definitely is the way to go. You can still reap some lawn care benefits with a November nitrogen application."

    Applying shredded leaves to your lawn does not alter its underlying soil chemistry, researchers say.

    "The deciduous leaves coming off trees have been shown to have a minimal effect on soil pH," Goatley says. "What could make a difference, though, is pine straw (layers of pine needles). That’s acidic. The needles also don’t break down very quickly."

    Grass height depends upon the species, but two to three inches is good for this time of year.

    "An advantage to maintaining your mowing schedule into the down time of winter is that the leaves continue filtering down," Goatley says. "You can’t completely pulverize them, but they will settle down into the grass and become organic matter."

    While you should always think safety when mowing your lawn, that goes double when leaf-mulching. Wear safety goggles and an air mask, Goatley says. Don’t use your mower for branch-shredding or stump-grinding. Sharpen the mower blade and change the air filter more often when mulching thick layers of leaves.

    "Walk the area and pick up whatever branches and debris have come off with the leaves," Goatley says. "The leaves should be on the dry side so they pulverize a little better, but then that means dust.

    "You should also think about who’s out there, including pets. You can’t have anyone or anything nearby while you’re running the risk of throwing sticks or any debris buried beneath the leaves."

    Monday, November 22, 2004
  3. bettergrass

    bettergrass LawnSite Member
    Posts: 242

    hope customers dont here about this, i enjoy doing clean ups and the checks it brings in.

    i guess you could just leave the shute open all year and durring fall charge a mulching fee. never make as much money though
  4. DGI

    DGI LawnSite Member
    from SE Mich
    Posts: 173

    That's not a very good way to think. Imagine how many people now balk at paying the lawnboy 30+ per man hour or however it works out and end up grunting it out themselves? If you could offer it at a more affordable rate you'd probably end up with a lot more work.
  5. Garden Panzer

    Garden Panzer Banned
    from Seattle
    Posts: 313

    I'm not so sure about the PH thing...I mulch as much as I can-but that said sometimes too much organic matter isn't a good thing. I bag em up in the late fall, you can shut down your soil if you feed it too much in the fall-
  6. gr8pyrs

    gr8pyrs LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Posts: 19

  7. Mark McC

    Mark McC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,565

    In defiance of science, some will always want the leaves removed, regardless of other factors. Also, some lawns get more leaves than can be reasonably mulched up and left to decompose.

    Personally, I'm a little fed up with fall clean-up work, so if it comes down to it and I've made enough from other work earlier in the season, I have no problem foregoing leaf removal. I enjoy being outdoors this time of year, but lugging around a backpack blower all fricking day really gets to me after a while.
  8. bettergrass

    bettergrass LawnSite Member
    Posts: 242

    i just tried cutting my own lawn with the mulching block on. i think it looks like crap in the areas where the leaves were 1 inches and more deep. ill try posting some pics tonight or tmorrow. also its easy to miss spots cause when you turn your mower sort of just pushes some of the leaves.

    mark why dont you put a grass catcher on your metro and just suck the leaves up. i would never use a bp for the whole lawn. only time i use mine is in the beginning when i need to get the leaves out of the beds to be sucked up by my wb.
  9. sethsodsquad

    sethsodsquad LawnSite Member
    Posts: 182

    Yeah, this is true for lawns that don't have lots of trees/leaves. Try mulching >4" thick layer of leaves. "No need to bag anymore! Even though it looks terrible - it's not going to hurt the lawn - oh wait - where is the lawn?"

  10. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    typical mentality when you are MULCHING THEM THE WRONG WAY. the leaves need to be cut, and "aired out" . if you're using a mulching kit, or "plug", this isn't happening. if you're picking them up on the first pass, how can you cut them twice? the correct way to "mulch" leaves is to side discharge them. air, air, air will make all the difference in the world!

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