Raking Fall Leaves

See why gardening expert Felder Rushing says it's best to rake.

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Boy in jeans and blue shirt and glasses rakes leaves during the fall.

Q: I heard that letting leaves from my trees stay on the lawn in the fall will protect my grass from cold weather. Does this mean I don’t have to rake, except to make it look nicer? 

ANSWER: 

There is a kernel of truth to this, but sorry -- you don’t get a free pass on raking! While a few leaves left on the lawn won’t cause any problems (other than with neatnik neighbors), letting them pile up and pack down can smother the lawn and create conditions for diseases. Worse, a thick layer of leaves may protect the lawn from light frosts, but it can also keep the grass from “hardening off“ before winter, and a hard freeze can penetrate and damage the still-tender grass. 

The good news is, you don’t have to rake them entirely. A thin layer of chopped leaves spread evenly over the lawn will compost quite readily, “feeding” your lawn and the earthworms underneath. This can be repeated every couple of weeks until the leaves get so thick you can no longer see any grass for all the leaves after mowing. So mow them into the grass as long as you can, and when they get too deep to mow, put them in an out-of-the way leaf pile, along with a few grass clippings to help it all compost over the winter. 

Or just blow the chopped leaves into a neatly edged mulch bed underneath your trees which will make a nice contrast to your neatly mowed and clipped lawn. 

Gardening expert and certified wit Felder Rushing answers your questions and lays down some green-wisdom. You can get more of your Felder fix at www.slowgardening.net.

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