How to Make Leaf Mulch & Leaf Compost

  • Thread starter CaptainDan
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May 9, 2021
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I told you I was going to take some pictures of the leaf mulch and compost. You should have never doubted me.

My little plan of mulching the leaves into the grass instead of raking them up is working out very well. You would be amazed at how much you can condense a big pile of leaves. If you mow over them a few times, it’s like they aren’t even there. Also, the new John Deere X300 Mulching Kit works great. It saves a lot of time and makes me happy to think that all these leaves are going to break down into the beautiful leaf compost that I am about to show you.

Let me post the pictures. We can talk about everything later.

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First off, I am going to tell you that this is what Autumn is all about…getting out there and playing with nature. There’s nothing like it. Sometimes you just have to take a break and smell the air.

I wanted to mention this before I forget. I am now using Pennington Smart Seed for my overseeding and spot seeding because there is a little something strange going on in the bags of Scotts grass seed. If you look at the “Inert Matter” percentage in the back of the bag, you’ll notice that it’s only a few % in the Pennington Smart Seed bag. If you look at the Scotts grass seed with the new Water Smart technology, you’ll see that the inert matter is up towards 50%. That means that there is around 50% actual grass seed and 50% other stuff that isn’t grass seed. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, especially if you are trying to grow grass during a warmer season or a warmer climate and can’t water new seed all the easily, but for me, I would prefer buying the most grass seed as I can. Enough about that.

So did you see this pics? Pretty nice, huh? It’s hard to believe that it only took one season to break down those leaves into that compost. I am guessing that dumping the leaf mulch into the woods helped. The worms were sitting there waiting for it. The worms are the ones that did all the work. Notice how I said “leaf mulch.” Yeah, I think the chopped up leaves break down a heck of a lot faster than leaves that are just raked up. Those types of leaves tend to mat down and get wet. They turn into compost much slower.

I got about four wheelbarrow loads of compost out of the woods the day I took these photos. I screened it and used it to cover up and seed some areas of the lawn there weren’t doing too swell. I know it’s late in the season for planting grass, but I figured that much of the other grass I planted in early September is just starting to germinate, so this round should be fine. Also, in the grass seed that I bought, there is a high percentage of Perennial Ryegrass, which germinates very quickly (like four days). The other other types of seed in the blend will take a bit longer, but I have faith that it’ll be just fine.

If I had some advice to give (which I do) someone who lives in a cooler climate like I do and who wants to do some overseeding, I would say to do it October 1 instead of September 1 like everyone suggests. Unless of course you have an irrigation system on your property. I say this because September is still quite warm and it is very difficult to get grass to germinate on dry soil. Hey, if you can figure out a way to get out there with the hose twice a day and water your entire property, then go for it. As for me, I’ll wait for the cooler weather and let mother nature take her course. As I said above, the new grass really started coming up around October 1. I am attributing that to cooler weather and more rain.

Mulching Leaves Into Lawn​

I keep thinking…if people mow their lawns, bag the clippings and rake up all the leaves, where does the lawn soil get any organic material from? It’s an interesting question and one that I haven’t found the answer to yet.

I used to bag the lawn clippings. I was having fun doing it too. Then, I read that I could just mow the lawn and let the clipping stay. Of course the article was written by one of those freaky granola people with a dirt lawn. You know the type, the guy who tries to eat the lawn weeds. I always try to take advice from people I want to be like, not some weirdo who jumped on the “green” train. So, I kept on reading articles from a variety of authors. I came to the conclusion that leaving the grass clippings on the lawn is okay if you mow frequently. If you mow infrequently, you will get big grass clumps that will kill the grass underneath. I think I can handle mowing regularly. About half way through this last Summer, I stopped bagging and the lawn looked the same thereafter.

The whole reason I did that research is because every time I bagged the clippings, I felt like I was taking a little bit of love away from the soil. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how that soil was going to get the organic material back. I mean, was it from the leaves I pick up every Autumn? No, because they obviously aren’t there anymore (I picked them up, duh).

I had a vision in my head…I visualized the lawn in five years. It was horrible. Everything was in black and white and looked barren like the moon’s surface. You can even use Mars as an example. I didn’t like having a lawn with no nutrients and dark soil. I decided to keep reading and to research what would happen if I just mulched up the leaves that fall from the trees every year and kept them right there on the grass. Well, wouldn’t you just know it, other people were having the same thoughts and a group up at Michigan State University did a study on this exact topic.

I am going to jump right to the conclusion of their study. They said that it is okay to mulch your leaves into the grass and it’s actually better for the soil. It helps out all those microbes and the worms as well. I know about the worms because my compost pile is FULL of them. Worms like organic material. If the lawn had more organic material, I could imagine that the worms would find their way there.

I’m going to do it. This year, I am going to mulch the leaves and leave them on the lawn. I am going to have to do a really thorough job though because there are a lot of leaves. That’s good because there are some areas of this lawn where the soil is just stripped of any nutrients. I wouldn’t even call it soil anymore. It’s like dust when it gets dry.

I suppose I could always just spread peat moss or compost over the grass every Autumn. That wouldn’t really be fun. Besides, where would I get my compost? From the big pile of leaves and grass clippings I raked up and bagged the year before?

This year will be the experiment. I will let you know how it goes. If things look good in the Spring, I will tell you. Actually, I will tell you either way. It can’t get any worse than it is now. Although, I am looking at the grass after a three week spell of no rain and a thorough dethatching job. Things ain’t looking so great.

COMMENT: I dump my grass clippings out in the woods during the summer. Than, when the leaves fall, chop them up and dump them on top of the grass. The worms are all lined up with the knives and forks all ready to devoure the gourmet meal I have prepared for them! By the time Spring rolls around again, I have some nice fresh topsoil that my wife Laurie uses for her potted plants and in her garden. I like your advice about planting October 1st. If I may offer some of my own advice: Purchase Scott’s (or Green Thumb)lawn service. You’ll swear somone came in and put a green rug down.

COMMENT: I gotta tell ya…..I am having a breakdown looking at my “dirty” lawn with the mulched leaves. My husband made me do it and because I face my back lawn all day working on my computer in front of the window, I can’t believe that I will be looking at this mess until next May! Convince me I did the right thing by not raking and “cleaning” up my lawn and beds.

COMMENT: Well, it’s not too late. You could always hook up a bagger to your lawnmower and go “clean” up your lawn. Or, you could always move your desk.