Here are some commonly recommended methods for homeowners.
What to do about all those leaves on the lawn
The Easiest Way
Undoubtedly, the easiest way to get rid of leaves is to mow them into your lawn. You can do this with a regular mower, especially if the leaves are dry, but a mulcher-mower works better. Watch the video. And there are plenty more leaf mulching videos on You Tube. Everyone's doing it!
In this photo at left, these leaves were mowed with a hand-pushed Neutron electric mower -- one pass. If you prefer a really tidy look, you can take another pass to mulch everything, although many people wait until the end of the season to get the perfect clean look. You can catch the leaves in the mower bag and compost them or, preferably, just let the mulched leaves fall on the lawn, where they will decompose, improving the soil.
It doesn’t matter how thick the leaf layer is, you just might have to go over it more than once. If you mow weekly, one pass will probably be fine. At the peak of leaf fall, you may need to mow twice a week. The chopped up leaves fall between the grass blades, decompose and nourish the soil. No need (or less need) for lawn fertilizer, no need for raking!
Landscapers and more serious gardeners switch the blades on their lawnmowers to special mulching blades (available online – called Gators). These shred the leaves VERY effectively. Switching a lawnmower blade is really easy and the mulching gator blades usually cost less than $20 depending on your mower type.
What About Leaves on Hard Surfaces?
You can mow leaves on hardscapes, like driveways and patios, and then move the mulched leaves back onto garden beds, around shrubs, or the lawn. Or just blow or (preferably) rake the leaves onto the lawn and mow them right in.
Wondering About the Leaves On Your Perennial Beds?
It is highly recommended to leave the leaves on your perennial beds, under shrubs and trees. Don't move them or mulch them. They serve as an importance habitat for pollinators like butterflies and other insects. These also provide an important source of food for birds through the winter. When. you "clean up" in the fall you are removing this habitat any any chance of these insects and birds to survive. Please speak to your client about this. If they insist on a fall clean up, pull fallen leaves off perennial beds, piling them in rows and then mow the rows. The volume is reduced by x10 and the remaining mulch can be replaced on the beds where they will break down forming a protective winter layer and then gradually turn into compost, enriching your soil.
There is no need to remove leaves from robust plants like pachysandra, unless your client insists you do so for aesthetic reasons. In which case, remove the leaves, mulch them with a shredder or mower, and blow or rake the mulch back onto the pachysandra. If you choose to leave them, during the winter and through early spring, they will slowly fall to the ground so you can't see them under the pachysnadra plants. The leaves will decompose and improve the soil naturally.
Most mowers designed for homeowner use come with mulching blades, designed to mulch grass and which work fine for leaf mulching. Make sure they are regularly sharpened and replace them when necessary. They can be bought at any lawncare maintenance store or ordered online and cost about $20.
Electric lawn mowers, which are less polluting than gas-powered mowers, are very effective at leaf mulching.
Gator blades, which have teeth, are worth considering for fall clean up if you have lots of leaves. They're more efficient than regular mulching blades and will also cut your grass perfectly well. Changing the blade on a mower is very simple and can be used on small homeowners mowers as well as professional-grade mowers.
* Green Jay Landscaping, 914-560-6570, Greenjaylandscaping.com
Landscapers who offer mulch mowing services in Westchester:
Ryan & Ryan Landscaping 914-693-0015 (His first year of mulch-mowing was in 2010 and he can't believe he didn't do it earlier. He saved almost $1,500 a week in overtime and tipping fees.)
A. Vulpone Landscaping 914-755-1121 firstname.lastname@example.org ("It's so much more efficient than removing leaves. It's better for the lawns and the flower beds too.")
Aesthetic Landscape Care, Tim Downey 914- 478-7320. email@example.com (Tim changed to mulching 10 years ago and was so impressed with the results he became a rep for Vulcher2 mulching equipment.)
David Duarte, Five Brothers Landscaping, 914-490-4123 firstname.lastname@example.org "It's the right way to go for the environment and makes sense financially too." (Been doing this for more than 20 years.)
Charles White, White Garden Designs, for southeast Westchester and north to White Plains. (914) 582-0412