As the leaves start dwindling down from the sky add back some nutrients to the soil by re-using the leaves.


Some municipalities have taken the initiative to encourage homeowners and landscapers to “leave leaves alone.” According to the University of Michigan piling leaves on the curbside increases the levels of phosphorus when left for a long period of time. Too much phosphorus may become toxic and seep into our streams and waterways causing pollution. Phosphorus has already been banned in fertilizer use in many states already.

Whether you received a notice from your town or you want to be environmentally conscious here are simple ways to re-use those fallen leaves. Studies at the University of Michigan have found that there is an added benefit to mowing right over your leaves. You can use a regular mower, but it’s better to attach a mulching mower kit to your mower for best results. It’s a just an mulching blade attachment that you can purchase as an add-on for your make and model.

Here’s what you do:

  • If you leaf pile is low (about 2″) you can just mow over the leaves (or schedule your landscaper to do this).
  • If the leaf pile is too high then just rake the excess, go over the leaf pile a couple of times with your mulching mower and spread the clippings over your garden beds, underneath your trees, or put the shredded leaves right into your compost bin.

Avid gardeners know that shredded leaves left in the compost bin creates “gold” for garden beds year after a year. When the small clippings are on your lawn the earthworms will help with the decomposition.  Make sure not to leave a thick layer of leaves on your lawn all winter though, your grass still needs sunlight and a big leaf pile will encourage unwanted critters to find a cozy spot to sleep in.

The tree types on your property will determine the beneficial microorganisms for your lawn. Here’s a quick list of leaf types with the most and minimal nutrition:  leaves-chart (Source: John Hogan / The Grand Rapids Press)

Although there is no real way to determine the amount nutrients your lawn is receiving, I wouldn’t skimp on your Fall fertilizing regimen. When you fertilize, you have more control as far as the amounts of nutrients being administered. And because a lot of our soil is compacted it’s a good idea to apply lime so that your the soil can better absorb all the nutrients.

Leaf mulching is beneficial to our environment by reducing yard waste, pollution, and creating “gold” for your garden beds. You are duplicating what nature has been doing for centuries and contributing to a healthier environment for future generations. 

Is your municipality asking you to “leave leaves alone?” If so, what do you think about the idea?



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