Are Leaves Bad For Your Lawn?

Oct 04, 2023
Are Leaves Bad For Your Lawn?

Autumn: a beautiful time of change. The season of falling leaves. Thousands and thousands of falling leaves from maple, elm, oak and walnut trees. Every day.

They are a gorgeous sign of the changing of the seasons. They are also a homeowner with a bad back’s worst nightmare as they work to remove the colorful leaf collages raining down on their lawns.

It’s fall and that means leaves will soon be littering lawns around the country.

And all those leaves (the average Iowa tree has 200,000 leaves) leave a mountain of work for a homeowner trying to keep their lawn tidy.

Welcome to Raking Season.

And as most of us know by now, raking can be an awful amount of work.

Nature in Motion and at Work

But are leaves really Kryptonite for lawns? Not necessarily. Leaves are a natural part of nature and biodegrade by the time spring rolls in.

In truth, leaves provide plenty of benefits for lawns during the fall and winter that go well beyond just providing a frost cover.

“Leaves cover up root systems, preserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and other plants,” David Mizejewski, a naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation, told USA Today. “They also slowly break down and … return (essential nutrients) to plants. It’s a perfect system. Nothing is wasted in nature.”

A lawn smothered in leaves can have trouble growing, which leads us to the quintessential question of fall lawn care: to rake or not to rake?

The Case for Raking

Though the leaves raining down in your yard won’t harm your grass, they definitely obstruct their growth. Raking leaves does enable your grass to grow during the year’s most beautiful season.

“Raking leaves offers many benefits, both to you and to your property,” Beaulieu stresses. “The most important benefit of raking leaves is that it will help your grass grow. A thick layer of fallen leaves can deprive grass of sunlight, which gets in the way of the growth of some cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, which are revitalized in the fall. Cool-season lawn grasses are most active in the moderately cool fall weather when they must ‘make hay’ to strengthen their root systems.”

The benefits of raking leaves don’t end with their positive ecosystem effect.

  • You will get plenty of exercise and fresh air.
  • You will eliminate damaging lawn thatch (dead grass tissue above the soil) as you rake.
  • Raking reduces the amount of leaves that harbor diseases that can harm trees and plants.
  • Raking makes your property look neat and cared for.

But for our friends with bad backs or heart issues, leaf blowers can often work just as effectively as old-school leaf rakes.

Mulching your leaves with your lawn mower is also a good low stress option for removing your lawn’s leaf blanket.

“Since they’re smaller, they’re more rapidly dismantled and decomposed by microorganisms,” Mizejewski said. “And the whole recycling process of those nutrients being returned to the soil occurs more rapidly.”

To Rake or Not to Rake? It’s a matter of personal lawn care preference. But a well-maintained and cared for lawn is a winner either way.

For those living in Cedar Rapids, Marion or the surrounding communities, Creekside Turf Management is here to help with your leaf cleanup this Fall, and all of your lawn care needs.  Contact us for a free consultation.