Bag it, Pile it, Mulch it, or Leave your Leaves


Fall leaves are spectacular when they light up next to a beautiful sunset this time of year. Fallen leaves on a cool wet morning are a completely different sight to see. If you are a research based decision maker, you will love this brief article. If you just like to be told which method is best, this article will not leave you hanging.

Getting straight to the point – mulching appears to be the best method of dealing with your leaves. Of course there are a few options on how to mulch, what to do with the mulched leaves and there are a few advantages to not mulching. You might mix it up from time to time.

Research shows that mulching your leaves into fine particles not only eliminates the hassle of raking and bagging them or blowing them into your neighbor’s yard, but it also is beneficial to your yard. Multiple studies found that using your mower to chop up leaves into tiny pieces allows them to slip past the blades of grass and settle into the soil. These fine pieces of leaves are more easily consumed by microbes and insects, which in turn benefits the soil and grass (see research).

If you decide to mulch, there are a few questions you may ask. Do I have to have a special machine or blade on my mower? Do I leave the chopped up leaves where they fall? Are there any advantages to bagging or piling?

First, you do not have to have a special machine or blade although it may take a few extra passes with your regular lawn mower blade. The key is to chop the leaves up as fine as you can. Some say the pieces need to be 1/2 inch in diameter while others say smaller. See what works for your yard. It may depend on how many leaves and the quality of your turf.

You can leave the chopped up leaves where they fall, but it is best to set your deck high and scatter the pieces so they are not pile up in one area. If they seem to be piling up too much in one area that it might stress your grass, spread some into your vegetable or flower garden. Many experts recommend mowing your leaves once a week when the season begins. Avoiding chopping up piles of leaves makes it easier on you and it allows the shredded leaves to settle and begin their decomposition process in layers.

Benefits of Mulching:

  • Saves work – which could save your back.
  • Saves money – if you have been paying for disposal/recycle.
  • Saves weeding – some experts say it controls certain weeds.
  • Saves on fertilizer – provides soil with winter nutrients, but you might still need to fertilize.
  • Saves time – more time for watching football or playing with kids.


  • Set your mower deck high.
  • Mow your leaves at least once a week when the season begins.
  • Scatter your mulched leaves by mowing one way one week and the other the next.
  • Spread some mulched leaves into your vegetable or flower garden.
  • A mulching blade and/or re-circulation attachment speeds up the process.

To conclude, there are two advantages to piling or bagging your leaves. One, you can create a pile that will create nice compost in about two years. Two, you can pile them up and let your kids jump, play and build forts in nature’s playground. Of course you can always mulch the piles when the kids are done playing. In the end – mulching is the easiest and best way to deal with your leaves.

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