Fall Lawn Care: Should I Rake or Mulch Autumn Leaves?

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Recently across social media, there has been a lot of chatter regarding fall lawn care and how to handle fallen leaves. Since we live and breathe all things organic lawn care, we wanted to use this opportunity to set the record straight.

Be-leaf it or not, the best time for lawn care is the period before your grass goes into its winter dormancy. It is one of the most crucial times of year to tend to your lawn's needs. The weather is getting colder, and the sun is out less, but your lawn can still be healthy if you care for it correctly.

Fall is the perfect time to get a head start on next year's beautiful lawn. Not only does the season present an ideal set of conditions for fall grass care, getting started early can help lawns put down deep roots, which can keep weeds away and help grass deal with drought conditions. It is also a time when leaves fall from the trees, and that brings up some important questions: When the leaves fall from the trees, should you leave them on your lawn, or should you rake them up and dispose of them?

How Do Fallen Leaves Affect Your Lawn?

If you are like most homeowners that mow their lawns, you have probably left grass on your yard as mulch. The idea is, the cut grass breaks down over time, and the existing turf uses the mulched grass as a form of nutrition. Many people do the same thing with leaves.

Allowing leaves to remain on your turf untouched over the winter months is not recommended, and can have a negative impact on your Spring lawn care.

Why are Leaves Left on Your Lawn Bad?

Leaves Cause Bare Spots

Leaf litter left for too long decreases vigor of grass and can lead to bare spots. Once spring rolls around, the turf will be slow to respond, and weeds will undoubtedly take advantage of the bare spots and thin grass.

Leaves Cause Bare Spots

Leaves Block Light

Sunlight is one of the primary needs for grass to grow favorably. When leaves are allowed to remain on the grass for too long, they block out the sun, and your lawn will start to stress. Fall is the best time of year for grass to recover from the summer. It is always best to keep leaf litter to a minimum during this period, so the turf is getting maximum light and can thicken before winter. This time of year, is also when many lawns are still getting significant light because tree shade is at a minimum once all the leaves drop.

Leaves Hold Moisture

Leaf litter holds moisture and slows evaporation. If accumulated leaves are allowed to sit for too long, excess moisture will cause decay, and, in conjunction with the lack of sunlight, you will see a marked decline in the quality of your turf underneath. Moisture on your lawn can leave it prone lawn diseases.

Leaves Hold Moisture

Leaves Deter New Seedlings

If your lawn has recently been aerated and seeded, the new seedlings are not yet mature enough to handle the negative impact leaves can bring. Time, money, and a lot of effort could be wasted.

So, What Can We Do with Leaves?

Shredding leaves with a mulching mower will save you time and money. Mulching is faster and easier on the back than raking. Studies have shown that mulching leaves can return nutrients and organic matter to the yard, and have long-term positive effects.

4 Best Practices for Making Shredded Leaf Mulch

  1. The turf must be mowed high.
  2. The leaves should be dry, not wet, and matted down.
  3. Leaf mulching should be done every week. If done too infrequently, the thickness of the leaf litter will be too much for the mulching effort to be effective. You will create a layer of smaller leaves.
  4. Leaf mulching early in the fall, while the soil temperature is still warm, will lead to rapid decomposition of the litter. Waiting until the end of fall is counterproductive as the soil temps have cooled, and decomposition is slower.

In conclusion, fall lawn care doesn't have to include the tedious job of raking leaves. Follow these simple steps for how to mulch leaves and your lawn and your back will thank you!

If you have additional questions or would like to learn more about our fall lawn care services, contact your local NaturaLawn of America location today!

Get My
Free Price Quote


My lawn is beautiful.  It has never looked this good.  It looks like lush green velvet.  We only had one dandelion this spring and it was on the edge of our property, so it must have been the neighbor’s!

Jennifer L. Lloyd – Bear, DE

For over 22 years, NaturaLawn of America has been creating naturally beautiful lawns that are safer for you, your family, pets and the environment.  Of course our satisfied customers say its best!
In less than a year, my lawn has gone from one of the worst on the block to among the best.  This is quite an accomplishment considering we have well water and, therefore, never water the lawn.  The  service is also top notch – friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Stewart Kaufman – Southbury, CT

NaturaLawn of America has cared for my lawns now for 10 years (2 houses) and I am completely satisfied with your company.  My service technician is friendly, caring and knowledgeable.  I’m happy with the results, how you care for my lawn and the prices you charge – happy enough that I recommend you to others and I tear up ads from competitors without even reading them.
My husband and I are currently acquiring a house in New Hampshire.  There is no question that I will want NaturaLawn of America service at that house.  It is a true pleasure to work with a “national” company that treats their customers in a local business manner.

Anne Bullitt – Newark, DE

I’m just dropping you a note to let you know that we are very pleased with your lawn service, the way we are treated and the beautification of our lawn.  Many families have seen our lawn and are very impressed by the way it looks.  They are even more impressed that you are an organic-based company and use 85% less chemicals and pesticides.  We have referred many of our friends and neighbors and will continue to refer people as the opportunity arises.

Jack & Sherrie Decker – Plainview, MN

Our lawn is beautiful.  Thank you for the great results AND for protecting my family and the environment from unnecessary chemicals and pesticides.  It’s nice to have a lawn care company that is concerned about my lawn, my family and the environment.  When people are looking for a healthy, nice lawn, friendly service AND a safer lawn care option, I highly recommend they call NaturaLawn of America.

Pete Plimmer – Wilmington, DE

You are doing a great job! We are glad we switched to NaturaLawn of America and are spreading the word about the super job you do.

Steve Pfannenstein – Rockville, MN

I wanted to write and let you know how pleased I am with NaturaLawn of America.  I had never used a lawn service before.  I’m against putting more chemicals into the environment, so I decided to see what you could do organically.  My lawn was 1 ½ years old – builder grade seed on builder soil! It was a lawn in need of some help, but I didn’t know how wonderful it could look.
Two days ago, my neighbor (who used one of the top chemical lawn companies) sounded a little baffled and asked what I do to my lawn – It looks like a carpet!  We just smiled and said “NaturaLawn of America”.  That’s when I took a good look at my lawn and everyone else’s - our lawn is thick and green.  Despite the recent drought, despite our lack of attention to our lawn, and despite its humble beginnings, it is a magnificent piece of work.

Paul & Doris Pavlichek – Mount Airy, MD

This is our second year with NaturaLawn of America and I can’t say how much we appreciate your work. The yard is awesome!

Don Strei – Elk River, MN