To leave or not to leave

Horticulture Hints

Looking to avoid raking leaves this fall? Leaving excessive amount of leaf matter on the lawn can cause problems going into winter, and is bad for several reasons.

Leaves can smother the grass and if not removed by very early in the spring, the growth will be inhibited.

A mat of unraked leaves overwintering can promote snow mold, a turf fungal disease. Most lawns will survive snow mold, but will need help by raking up the matted leaves and grass to allow air and sun to reach the growing plants.

Leaves also provide a winter hiding place for critters, such as voles and mice. Damage from these overwintering pests can be more extensive in the spring.

But do you really need to rake all your leaves? If only 10-20 percent of your lawn is covered, you might be okay, but make sure the leaves aren’t covering any more than that.

The better option – Mulch the leaves with a lawnmower by chopping them into small pieces into the lawn canopy. The nutrients and organic matter will benefit the lawn and soil.

Continue mowing as long as your grass is growing to chop up the leaves, if they aren’t too thick. Several passes with the mower may be needed to mulch the leaves adequately. Heavy accumulations of large leaves from oak and maple trees may be best raked and composted.

Did you know? Rake and remove fallen leaves under rose bushes. This will help prevent insect pests and fungal disease problems like powdery mildew from overwintering. Picking up fallen fruit from under fruit trees will also help to keep insects from emerging to cause problems next spring.

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Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.

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