Leaf mulching and soil chemistry

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by dishboy, Nov 11, 2004.

  1. dishboy

    dishboy LawnSite Fanatic
    from zone 6
    Messages: 6,061

    Does anyone know what effect mulching leaves into the turf will have on base saturation rates, Ph levels etc and if this practice requires a change in fertilizer requirements. Also in your opinion is this a positive or negative practice as far as turf quality goes. I imagine leaving excessive amounts of ground up leaves would not be good, but short of that I am real interested in everybody's take on this .
  2. Hamons

    Hamons LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 706

    Leaves are ebenficial to the lawn AS LONG AS they are chopped up fine enought that they are not shading or matticng down on top of the grass. The decompose fairly quickly and provide decomposed leaves form water-holding humus and other nutrients to the soil.

    I have read and expereinced that oak laves in aprticular raise the pH of the soil if mass quanities of their leaves are regularly mulched into the soil, but.... this can be taken care of easily.

    Leaves are mostly carbon and therefore might effect the C:N ratio in your soil. Although i would doubt it could to the point of detriment.

    It would be interesting to see what others think
  3. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,341

    Mulching the leaves and leaving on the lawn is a good way to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers used to maintain a lawn. Most of the elemental nutrients are taken up thru the roots of plants, ie. K/P/S/Mn/CA ect,and are converted to the necessary starches and carbohydrates that support the plants life. These elemental nutrients are returned to the soil whenever the leaves decompose. Mulched leaves are an organic material and should not be confused with organic matter. The microorganisms in the soil are needed to convert the organic material into organic matter. It is the breaking down of the organic material by the microorganisms that releases the elemental nutrients from the leaves or grass clippings and makes them available to the living plants. This reduces the need for application of fertilizers to supplement the nutrients. The rate of decomposing of the organic material, and subsequent release of nutrients, is dependent on the availability of microorganisms in the soil. If the soil is rich in microorganisms the decompsition of the organic material can be fairly rapid but, in lawns that have recieved regular high application of Phous based fertilizer these organisms might be reduced. Further, if the grass clippings are bagged and removed on a regular bases, sufficient microorganisms might not be present to rapidly decompose the organic material. While the microorganisms will multiply as a food source becomes more available, (mulched leafs), because of the cooler weather during leaf drop, they might not multiply as fast as they would in warmer weather and additional microorganisms might need to be added to speed up the decomposition of the leafs.

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