So the changing colours of leaves and the falling leaves is nowhere near as spectacular in Queensland as in other parts of the country – it only takes one or two in your backyard to cause a couple of issues.
If you, or your close neighbours have deciduous trees then falling leaves can affect you. Deciduous trees are those that annually drop their lawns during Autumn. Why are they a problem? They do allow additional sunlight to reach your lawn plants during the cooler months but it’s the dropped leaves that are the issue.
Fallen leaves are nothing more the rotting plant material – they block sunlight to the turf underneath, hinder the oxygen, water and nutrients from getting where they need to go, and make the lawn below more susceptible to fungal diseases and pests.
What To Do
Fortunately, fixing this issue is fairly easy, and not too time consuming. Rake up any fallen leaves and get them off the lawn – they can be added to your compost bin which is a bonus. If the fallen leaves have been sitting for an extended period of time and the grass beneath is struggling then an application of fertiliser, remembering to water it in thoroughly, may be in order. If moss has taken hold below it will need to be removed by hand or with a specialty herbicide – never use a rake or similar to remove moss – it will just cause the spores to be spread further throughout your lawn and therefore your moss issues to grow.
A Second Option
If the idea of raking up the leaves from your deciduous tree is too much, there is another way. If you shred the leaves into small enough pieces with your mower then you can leave them on the lawn without fear that they will suffocate your lawn plants.
A mulching mower—one fitted with a blade that chops leaves and grass clippings into small pieces—does the job best, but a side-discharge mower also works. Set the mower height to 3 inches (7-8cms) and remove the bag. It’s best to shred leaves when you can still see some grass peeking through them, which means that you may need to pull out the mower more than once if you have big trees or a lot of the deciduous variety.
Begin mowing on the outside edge of your lawn, making sure that you shoot the leaves toward the middle of the backyard. Mowing in this way also allows you to mow over the leaves more than once. If the leaves are still in fairly large pieces after your first pass, go back over the lawn at a right angle to your first cut. Finely shredded leaves filter down through the grass and easily decompose by next spring.
If a thick layer of shredded leaves buries your lawn, you must suck up the extra leaves by making one more pass over the lawn with the mower’s bag attached. You can also mow with the bag on if you want to collect leaves for your compost pile, or to use as mulch in your garden beds. It’s best to have no more than a 1-inch (2.5cm) layer of leaf mulch on lawns. Mulched leaves return valuable micronutrients to your lawn (especially when mixed with grass clippings) and feed the microorganisms and worms that keep your soil and your turf strong and healthy.