Fall Leaves Make Great Mulch for Your Lawn

Fallen leaves are a healthy mulch for lawns! For this easy garden tip, all you need is a lawn mower. Learn how to mulch leaves.

autumn leavesNoelle Johnson
A tree with colorful fall leaves

Fall has officially arrived and leaves will soon be turning beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red, providing a fall foliage display that we look forward to each year. However, it’s what comes after the show that does not make most people happy—fallen leaves!  But, did you know that there are some people who look forward to seeing fallen leaves on their lawns? Let me tell you an easy garden secret that they have already discovered. Fallen leaves make a great mulch and add nutrients to your lawn. All you need is your lawn mower. Learn how to mulch leaves and you’ll never rake again.

Get 7 tips for growing a healthy lawn.

How to Mulch Leaves

Boy Raking Autumn LeavesElizabethsalleebauer/Getty Images
Never rake leaves again—mulch them instead.

When leaves are broken up into smaller pieces, they gradually break down and make their way down into the grass where they provide mulch.  The mulching action of the leaves keeps a majority of weeds from germinating in spring. Now wait, it get’s even better. As the leaves break down, they add nutrients to your lawn as well, which is vital to rapid recovery and regrowth in spring while needing less supplemental fertilizer.

So, are you ready to ‘mow’ your leaves instead of raking them this fall?

Man passing lawn mower over autumn leaves on grassMarc Dufresne/Getty Images
Mow your leaves to help break them down.

To create leaf mulch from your autumn leaves simply set your lawn mower on its highest setting (without the bag) and run over the leaves twice. This will break them down into small pieces.  (I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather mow leaves than rake them!)  Thereafter, every couple of weeks, continue to mow your leaves until they are finished falling. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they disappear from the lawn surface as they break down.

Knowing how to make leaf mulch for your lawn is a great example of sustainable, organic and easy gardening!

So, as the temperatures begin to cool and the first brightly colored leaves begin to fall, leave the rake in the shed and reach for your lawn mower. You’ll end up with a healthier lawn with much less effort.

Psst—we found more genius garden hacks you’ll want to steal immediately.

More Backyard Uses for Fall Leaves

Gardener,hands,putting,autumn,leaves,in,a,plastic,bag,duringRomo Lomo/Shutterstock

Birds & Blooms readers share the clever ways they improve their landscapes and help wildlife with fall leaves.

“After the leaves dry, we spread them on the lawn. My husband puts the grass-clipping catcher on the lawn mover and mulches them. We scatter the pieces on flower beds or the compost pile,” says Janet Minnix.

“I rake them into piles for overwintering insects,” says Ken Orich.

“I built a fire pit last summer, so the dried leaves are the perfect kindling,” says Ellen Savold.

“We put damp leaves into black trash bags and place them around rose bushes like a donut. The bags offer valuable insulation in winter,” says Clarice McKenney.

how to mulch leavesNoelle Johnson
Fall leaves make great organic matter for your yard.

“I use my mower to mulch the leaves on my lawn. They slowly break down and go back into the soil,” says Don Bailey.

“I save leaves for bedding in my worm compost bin. The worms will eat the leaves and turn them into castings, also known as black gold. It’s perfect for my plants,” says Megan Long.

Next, check out the fall cleanup garden chores you should never skip.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, writer and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. She is the CEO and owner of 'AZ Plant Lady,' an education company that aims to help people garden successfully in the desert climate. She is the author of the book, Dry Climate Gardening, and her byline has appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is an instructor at the Desert Botanical garden and Tucson Botanical Gardens.