Mulch Your Leaves…It’s Better For Your Lawn
And Your Paycheck, And Your Seafood, And Your Blah Blah…
Let’s start with the claim saying that, if you mulch your leaves on your lawn, you save money, your seafood costs go down, and your lawn stays healthy from it.
Ok, so we have our claim. Now we have to back it up with evidence. We will do it by list. Feel free to dispute these claims! We are always welcome to learning more from qualified professionals with different experiences.
- You save money by not having to water as much, not having to spend as much time raking, and not having to buy more expensive fertilizer.
If we can agree that time is money, any work associated with leaf removal is extra money. Though raking leaves burns up to 400 calories in an hour, this article is more about the functionality of mulching leaves on the premises.
Mulching leaves can be as simple as going over the leaves with a mulching lawn mower to cut the sitting leaves into smaller pieces. Smaller leaf pieces are important. Take a look at this picture below.
This is natural cover provided by fallen leaves in the Autumn. See the space they take up, and the lack of greenery? This means that the leaves are absorbing valuable sunlight that can be used by the grass. Mulching cuts the leaves into the smaller pieces that allow for the grass to be exposed to valuable sunlight.
Do you see the difference in the pieces of the leaves in the pictures? These smaller leaf particles will break down faster because they also are in contact with the soil. The soil has beneficial bacteria and other organisms which will contribute to the breakdown of the leaves, and can reach the smaller pieces easier since more is in contact with the soil. This feeds organisms that can be beneficial to the health of your grass, so long as you control for nuisances or pests along with.
Not only does the leaf breakdown feed the soil, but the mulch provides a natural cover for the soil. Falling rain can actually be damaging to healthy soil, as its impact can disrupt the small community of organisms. (Imagine being hit by a bucket of water from a thousand feet). A protective mulch cover absorbs the impact of the falling rain, and allows the water to flow into the soil. The mulch also protects moisture from escaping the soil, too. It can act as a moisture barrier, and when broken down, can retain moisture, too.
Lastly, leaves are made up of many materials that can contribute to the natural makeup of the soil. Deciduous trees, with their deep root systems, pull up minerals from the ground and distribute them into their leaves. The leaves fall, and, when mulched, naturally replenish the soil. One of the main minerals in a healthy lawn is phosphorus, of which leaves contain a generous amount of. This reduces your need to buy fertilizers that contain all of the necessary nutrients for a healthy lawn. It is recommended to consider supplementing the lawn with a nitrogen source, as leaves have a pretty low nitrogen content.
2. It Lowers Seafood Costs And Protects Your Drinking Water
Mulched leaf cover on a grass lawn breaks down slowly, and retains moisture. This means that water runoff and erosion risks are reduced because the soil is able to handle larger amounts of water.
The risk to water system’s health towards humans and other animals is the presence of large amount of algae in the water. These are called “algal blooms” and result from a mix of environmental conditions, but are strengthened through the presence of nutrient runoff from human actions. Algae, and green plants, feed on phosphorus and nitrogen, that means the very fertilizers we use to make our grass green also makes the blue-green algae bloom in the waters. The runoff or erosion from our fertilized lawns clog and choke waterways with these basic foods for algae.
If you live close to the Naragansett Bay region, your shellfish prices most likely rose as a result of an algal bloom this October. Threats to freshwater drinking sources are becoming more of a concern as toxic algal blooms occur in drinking water supplies.
Algal blooms can be harmful to humans in freshwater supplies because a byproduct of algae is a toxin called a microcystin. It causes nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, and in long term exposures, can contribute to liver damage. Talk about a rising health cost bill.
Healthy seafood systems suffer from algal blooms too. Stress and the lack of oxygen can choke out any sea life that could live there. The overcrowding in the water and the lack of resources is immense. Think of it as walking to your favorite coffeeshop or bar, and it has been taken over by 300 college students who have just taken a class on blue-green algae. Is the experience in your favorite place a comfortable one? Probably not, with all the kids chattering about how nitrogen and phosphorus are good for algae while they drink of all the coffee or beer, and take up the time of the barista or bartender who just wants to give you your regular drink. That’s the kind of crowding that leads sea life away from fisheries and out of the plates of a Rhode Islander or Massachusetts-ian.(?)
So, mulching leaves reduces the impact that artificial fertilizers have on the environment. They break down slower, and contribute to less nutrient runoff. This means your drinking water is clean, and there is more of a supply, which lowers drinking water costs. It also makes watering your plants easier, as the water is healthier. The lack of nutrient runoff also contributes to less algal blooms in local fisheries, which increase supply and the health of the seafood, which makes your fresh food healthier and in abundance.
3. Your Lawn Is Healthier
I think that was covered in the already-too-long essay written above. Your mulched leaves contribute to better moisture retention, less environmental impact, and they provide needed nutrients to a soil ecosystem that supports healthy grass.
So while the grass might not be as compulsively clear of leafs as other neighbors, the benefits from it are multiple, and the process is not resource-intensive. All it requires is a slow run through with a mulching lawn mower.
Consider the low-impact alternative to lawn care as a way to improve your environment. It costs less, requires less work, and might just increase your enjoyment of the great outdoors!