Leaf Raking Alternative Has Benefits
Family member participation in the family fall leaf raking party was waning. My wife and children were finding reasons not to come. The fifty or more leaf bags filled to capacity that once lined our driveway for city pickup each fall had been a source of pride and evidence of family team work. The task of raking the estimated 200,000 leaves per mature tree without their help was daunting. In a search for alternatives the findings were compelling and totally changed the way we manage the leaves and our lawn.
Beginning in 2006, we adopted organic lawn care practices including the practice of keeping all the leaves on our property and no longer toiling to rake, bag, and place them on the curb. The change has contributed to improvements in soil health, organic matter and fertility which have improved the health, quality and aesthetics of our lawn. In autumn when the leaves are falling a blower is used to blow the leaves from the road, sidewalk, driveway and patio onto the lawn where they are mulched with a mulching lawn mower weekly. The leaves are mulched into small confetti size pieces that work their way between the blades of grass to the soil where the soil organisms break them down.
Winterkill associated with leaves forming mats and smothering the grass has not been a factor.
One factor that contributes to the ability of our soil organisms to effectively breakdown and incorporate into the soil such a large volume of leaves each year is a healthy soil food web. Our organic lawn care practices support a wide variety of organisms that help recycle leaves and other nutrients and make them available for the grass and other plants and organisms. A healthy soil food web results in the increased retention of nutrients that otherwise could runoff the property as pollution. The increased efficiency at which nutrients are stored, cycled and available to the plants allows for reductions in the amount of fertilizer that is applied. Chemical pesticides which may negatively impact other than the targeted pests, including beneficial soil life and other concerns are no longer used.
Other companion practices used to support our organic lawn care include: soil testing every 3 years by an accredited lab that uses chemistry suitable to our region; natural or organic fertilizers and other natural soil amendments applied according to soil test results and plant needs; no synthetic fertilizers, bio solids or chemical pesticides are used; fall core aeration; application of good quality compost or compost tea; over seeding with viable grass seed adapted to the site; mowing with a sharp mower blade; mulching grass clippings into the lawn; mowing direction is changed each mowing; grass is not mowed below the recommended height for the particular grass variety except when over seeding or the first spring mowing; no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade is removed at any given time to maintain the desired grass height; grass is mowed when needed to maintain the desired height and not according to a calendar schedule, to name a few.
These cultural and mechanical practices and organic products have made our lawn safer for our family, pets, wildlife and the environment. The recycling of our leaves back into our lawn, flower beds, garden and composter is a wise use of this valuable natural resource and has not only benefited our soil and lawn, but also freed up city resources for use in other areas and conserved fuel and more.
Earth Friendly Land Care, Inc. (March 2013)