Does practice of mulching leaves into the grass harm it?
QUESTION: I have five large trees in my yard, and I usually shred and bag the leaves and let the garbage company haul them away. I normally bag at least 40 of the large 32-gallon bags per year. However, I found out that the new garbage company just takes them to the regular landfill with the garbage. I don’t think that’s ecologically sound. This fall, I mulched most of the leaves on top of the grass with my tractor. As a result, I filled only eight bags, which I could take to the landfill yard-waste area. I mulched the leaves weekly as they fell, not all at once. My question is: Is this practice harmful to the grass?
ANSWER: Mulching leaves regularly, as you did, produces good organic matter for your soil. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, where leaving multiple inches of mulched leaves on the grass could smother it. But it sounds as if you’ve managed this well.
In the publication “Leave Them Alone: Lawn Leaf Management,” Mike Goatley Jr., a Virginia Tech turf specialist, points out that mulching leaves directly into the turf is an effective management technique. “Numerous
It’s time to ...
Remove any remaining foliage from last year’s perennials. Capture those dead tops and dispose of them in a trash bag. This will reduce the chance of any pest organisms from infecting your new growth this spring.
university research reports have detailed how leaf mulching affects turf performance,” he says. “In almost every instance, the results show that chopping up deciduous leaves as part of a regular mowing schedule is an effective means of managing these leaves without harming the turf.”
However, he notes that this practice of mulching leaves into the turf does not apply to pine needles. Even when chopped into small pieces, they do not break down quickly like the leaves from deciduous trees.
QUESTION: I have a Japanese maple that I pruned back in February and made a few small touch-ups to in May. Then the growth started June through September — and I mean lots of growth. The tree is pretty and healthy, but it has a lot of wildlooking long branches. I feel as if I really need to control its excessive growth. This February, I plan to prune it again, but how much?
ANSWER: I can’t be sure from your photo, but this looks like a Bloodgood red maple that you seem to be trying to shape more like a dwarf Threadleaf red maple. If it is a Bloodgood, they grow to 20 feet tall if allowed to develop naturally. That would explain the “wild-looking long branches” you described. If I’ve properly identified the tree, your best bet now is to skip any spring pruning and allow it to develop naturally.
QUESTION: I loved your recent response on growing native grasses. As a result, my front yard is suitably brown now with common Bermuda grass. However, my backyard has become overgrown with those little purple flowering plants I call lawn violets. They’ve crowded out my Bermuda grasses. Short of nuking the whole yard, is there a fix?
ANSWER: Violets are extremely hard to control. The ideal time to treat them is early May, when they first start popping up again. They are perennial, so they will return in the spring. Violets tend to be somewhat susceptible to herbicides containing either triclopyr or penoxsulam, according to the Pest Management Guide from Virginia Cooperative Extension. You will likely find one or the other in a combination product with other selective lawn-weed control products. Again, start treating when they first show up in the spring. You’ll likely need to repeat the treatment once or twice during the summer.
Regularly mulching leaves into the lawn is effective leaf management and does not hurt the turf.