Fall Is for Mulching

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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mulching leaves with a lawnmower

Mulch volcanoes are a problem in the landscape that can contribute to tree decline and even death. Improper mulching includes piling the mulch around/onto the base of trees and shrubs, piling the mulch too deeply, and not making the mulch area wide enough. Ideally, the mulch around trees and shrubs should be kept away from the trunk of the plant, be 2-4” deep, and extend at a minimum to the drip line of the plant.

Proper mulching protects the stem of the plant from damage from lawnmowers and string trimmers, conserves moisture, reduces competition from weeds and turf, and as it decomposes adds organic matter to the soil.

With fall’s arrival, there are plenty of leaves that you can use as mulch. To conserve and protect insects that overwinter in the leaf debris, allow the leaves to remain where they fall in your landscape, especially in ornamental beds  Alternatively, you can use your lawnmower to chop leaves into small pieces by mowing over them one or more times. When mowing the leaves and your lawn always make sure to keep the leaves and clippings on the lawn area and do not blow them into the street. Leaves and grass clippings contain nutrients that can contribute to the same problems as excess fertilizers washed into our storm drains and cause damage to our streams and water quality.

If the leaves are finely chopped and do not cover your lawn you can leave them on the lawn to decompose. If you have a lot of leaves, chop them up and use them to mulch your ornamental beds or to cover your vegetable garden over the winter – the leaves will decompose over the winter and can be easily worked into the soil in the spring. If you don’t have any leaves of your own, take a ride and look for leaves that other folks may have bagged and placed on their curb! The saying “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure” is perfect for this. Many folks do not understand the benefits of keeping their leaves on site and adding that great organic matter to their soil so you can take advantage of that.

Spread the word to your friends, family, and neighbors about proper mulching.