Submitted by Jeff Buster on Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:05.


This Fall, rather than raking and blowing those autumn leaves off your lawn and garden  why don’t you just mow them into your lawn and leave them in your garden.


It is best to mow them when they are dry – the leaves will disintegrate into leaf dust which filters down into the grass and out of sight.  Worms will then take over, and in a matter of days pull all the leaf chips down into the ground thus providing composted organic nutrients to the lawn. 


Next spring the result will be a healthier lawn – obtained without adding commercial fertilizer. 


The other benefit garnered from feeding your worms is added soil porosity that the well fed worms will develop in your soil. 


When NEORSD finally comes to their senses and puts in a storm water tax program like Ann Arbor’s, those worm holes in your lawn and garden are going to be money in the bank.   I’ll bet that Ann Arbor continues to refine its storm water soil percolation strategy and begins to distinguish lawn and soil surfaces not only by their appearance, but by their actual rainwater infiltration performance.


I think our lawns eventually will be perc tested -  (percolation tested) just as septic fields are now perc tested. – and the better the performance of a lawn in absorbing rainwater, the less storm water abatement tax you will pay on your property.  


So why not start this Fall in developing a more absorbent lawn?









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Not to mention environmental impacts

Having grown up in Shaker and driving through there regularly I find the leaf removal hustle and bustle astounding... today they had on one block like four dump trucks and a massive bulldozer... no wonder the taxes there are insane!!!! And we all thought it was for education. So how much fuel is wasted with this constant Fall leaf fleet and what happens to all the dumptrucks full of leafy debris. And while on the subject of waste and Shaker, what about all the little carts what shoot up and down all the driveways, instead of residents getting a bit of exercise taking out the trash, once a week... how much fuel does that waste. Perhaps if Shaker didn't provide so many wasteful services, I could afford to live there one day. And if Shaker stops screwing up the environment, there may still be a Shaker to live in that day.

Disrupt IT

push lawnmower?


thanks for the enlightenment.  I knew the leaves could somehow be beneficial  to my lawn, but wondered about how to get  them fine  enough to degrade.  yesterday i was raking a big pile from the front yard to the back with a metal rake.  as i moved the ever growing pile, the leaves on the bottom began to shred quite nicely.  not nearly as uniform as a power lawnmower, but effective non the less.  I wonder if a push lawnmower would have the same effect as a gas/electric model?  Once the second round of leaves fall, I'll give it a try and let you know.

Also, what do you think of covering plant beds and mulched areas with a layer of leaves for insulation and soil enrichment over the winter?


any thoughts on decomposing a big pile of leaves over the winter?  I plan to use many as the 'brown' matter in the composting of food stuffs over the winter, but I think that will leave many leaves untouched, in a pile.  any suggestions?

thanks again!


Hello John,


I think it would be difficult to mow dry leaves with a push reel mower.  I suppose you could do it foot by foot by backing up the push mower and thrusting ahead over and over again.    That would be great exercise.  


I have thought of taking an burned out electric mower, taking off the 120v motor, putting on a 12v automotive starter, fastening a 12v car battery on the deck, and hooking the battery up to a photo voltaic panel.   When the battery was charged you’d do a little mowing until it was discharged, then plug it back in to the PV controller.   That would be quite alternative!


Since  leaf blowers use gas to remove the leaves and don’t get any composting/soil benefit from the leaves , I suggested using a gas mower to mulch the leaves because at least that gas usage would have some permanent benefit for your yard.


You can certainly leave all the leaves in your beds over the winter.  Then, to let the bulbs through, you can remove them gingerly in the Spring.


To compost a big pile of leaves it is best to place a foot or so of leaves and then throw on a few shovel- fulls of topsoil to “seed” the leaves with a dusting of composting organisms.  Another benefit of the soil on the leaves is that the soil compresses the leaves and keeps them from blowing away.  Cap off the top of the pile with more soil. 


Earthworms and red wigglers are the ticket for high speed decomposition.  If you know someone who already has a seasoned compost pile, ask them if you can shovel through it and extract out a bunch of worms.  It is easy to collect a five gallon bucket full of worms and soil in 15 minutes or so.


Then take the bucket home and tuck the worms and soil into your leaf compost pile. Those worms will naturally find their way to your leaves if you don't artificially inseminate


In the summer composting will stop if the pile gets too dry, so remember to water it as necessary.

I mow my leaves every year i

I mow my leaves every year i actually purchased a mower that was best at doing this creating good updraft and cutting them up very fine. My wife and I compost everything we can for our garden we plant mainly vegetables instead of flowers so we can eat something as they are ready and make salads etc. 


Hello Jason,

Please tell us about the mowers you have used and the one you finally settled on as being best at lifting the leaves up out of the grass and circulating them through the mower blade. 


I am using an old Toro seen in the photo – but the re-cycling of the leaves under the shroud isn’t what I would like. The leaves are spit out to the side before they are completely pulverized, meaning I have to take multiple passes back and forth.


Lovely leaves

I have found that even partially chewed up leaves break down quite quickly. You can leave them piled deeply through the winter (once ground is cold and plants are dormant) then transfer to compost heap in the spring. I also have an old Leaf Eater (string trimmer inside hopper) which does a great job. I paid only $30 at end of season clearance - much pricier now. But it is electric so at least less noxious than running a gas mower too and fro. 


Earth worms will demolish leaves so quickly that they actually are detrimental in forests, which like to have a deep cushion of leaf litter. If you need earthworms old manure piles are a great source - you can get rich soil and worms at the same time. Leaf mould may be the single best additive you can get for your garden. But if you can't make your own,  some municipalities compost their leaves and then sell it back to the public.