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American Lawns Mowing the Lawn with Leaves
American Lawns Mowing the Lawn with Leaves

Lawn Tips

Mowing the Lawn with Leaves on it: Ultimate Guide

So, the leaves have fallen and seem to have overtaken your yard. At the same time, your yard has also been taken over by overgrown grass, and it’s time to mow it! This feels like a dilemma. What should you do? Should you rake the leaves? Ignore them? How do you get rid of them? Mow over them?

On the one hand, raking would take even longer than simply mowing. On the other hand, mowing without raking the leaves takes much less effort. What should you do? This guide will help you know what the best course of action is for you and your yard!

Taking ActionMowing the Lawn with Leaves

Ideally, when leaves start to pile up on your lawn, you want to remove them so they don’t harm your yard. When leaves pile up, they can block the sun from reaching the ground or smother the turf. This can lead to turf diseases such as anthracnose, brown patches, copper spot, dollar spot, powdery mildew, red thread, rust, stripe smut, and summer patch (a.k.a frog disease).

The weight of leaves can also prevent grass from growing. A layer of leaves also traps moisture in the ground, which can also cause roots in the turf to rot. Ignoring the leaves that pile up on your lawn is not smart. You should take action sooner rather than later for the health of your yard. Taking care of your yard is essential and can be safely protected by purchasing home insurance.

Generally, you should take action when you can not see the top half of the blades of grass or when leaves cover more than a third of your entire yard. You can opt for raking or mowing your leaves. However, wet leaves can not be mowed easily.

Raking vs. MowingAmerican Lawns Mowing the Lawn with Leaves

Raking your leaves can cost you. Your taxes pay for trucks to sweep your leaves or collect your bags of leaves, which usually end in landfills. Many people burn leaves to get rid of them, but may not realize that they are emitting carbon smoke into the atmosphere.

Rather than causing environmental issues, it’s good to keep in mind being conscious of the environment. Mulching your leaves helps you to recycle a natural resource, helps make your grass greener in the long run, and saves you money.

What To Do Before You Mow

It’s good to prepare before you start mowing your yard! You should:

  • Make sure your mower is appropriately equipped for mulching
  • Make sure your mower blades are sharp
  • Be sure that the leaves are dry. Wet leaves are harder to chop and can clog your lawnmower!
  • You don’t have to rake! You can chop up to 6 inches of dry leaves at a time. If it’s thick, you’ll have to go over it a few different times.

Mowing Your Leaves

So, how do you mow your lawn with leaves on it? You can mow your lawn with leaves on it by preparing before you start! You should ensure that your mower is properly equipped for mulching leaves by making sure your blades are sharp and prepared for action! Once your lawnmower is ready, you can start by mowing the outermost edge of your yard towards the center. To ensure that the leaves are adequately mulched, you can go over them three or four times.

You can avoid raking by simply mowing! If you are composting your leaves, chopping them up with a mower helps them decompose more quickly. If you are going to put leaves in the compost, you should remember that there is a proper ratio of greens to browns. Green matter is anything from grass to clover clippings. Brown matter is anything from brown fallen leaves to chopped straw or hay. Green matter is nitrogen-rich, while brown matter is carbon-rich. The proper ratio of greens to browns is 2:1.

When mowing leaves, you can use a grass catcher to catch all the chopped leaves. Or if you are interested in the leaves decomposing wherever you are mowing, you can mow without the grass catcher. If you are going to let them decompose where they lay in your yard, you should make sure they are in dime-sized pieces. The pieces should have no trouble filtering down to the bottom of the grass onto the surface of the soil.

Depending on the size, you may need to mow over the leaves multiple times so that they are small enough. Keep in mind that thicker, more leathery leaves take much longer to decompose. If seeing chopped leaves in your yard bothers you, you can even throw the chopped leaves you’ve caught in the grass catcher into the compost! You could also spread the chopped leaves in your garden to help nurture your plants.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when mowing your leaves: American Lawns Mowing the Lawn with Leaves

  • Make sure that the leaves are properly chopped. When you consistently see the grass, then you know it’s sufficiently cut. If you can’t see the grass, you will want to spread it all around. You can do this by raking.
  • You may want to mow more often if you live in a wooded area with a lot of trees. Mowing is a more natural solution to the leaves the pile up compared to raking!
  • If you have too many leaves, you can rake them into piles and mulch them up. If you have a surplus of mulched leaves, you can use them on more than just your yard. You can put them in your garden or compost as well!


There are many different products to help you in your leaf-removal process if you are looking into other equipment options other than a lawnmower to get rid of a lot of leaves. The best tool besides a lawnmower is a leaf vacuum. These can come with several different attachments that help you remove leaves from your yard. These attachments include vacuum bags to catch the leaves, mulcher, and shredders.

mulched leaf vacuum

lawn and yard careAnother option is a mulching mower, which has a specially designed high deck. The mulching blade helps chop the leaves into small pieces, pieces as small as confetti! These mulching mowers are designed so that the blade spins leaves and grass more than once while cutting them into tiny pieces. If you don’t have a mulching mower, you can opt to buy a mulching blade with serrated edges to attach to your regular mower. If you use a landscaping service, you can ask them to use a mulching mower to go over the leaves in your yard.

American Lawns Mowing the Lawn with LeavesUltimately, the best equipment tool to use that does not cost you much is your lawnmower. Attachments can also be purchased for your regular lawnmower. Any type of rotary action mower should do a good job. However, buying a mulching blade with serrated edges to attach is one of the best ways to ensure that your mower can do the best job possible.

When using your mower, you are going to want to set it to the highest setting. Most mowers can be set to around two to two and a half inches. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a mulching attachment, then your lawn mower may not chop leaves efficiently. You may have to go over it a few times to achieve the right level of shredding.

mulching lawn mower for leaves

lawn and yard careAlso, if you have a mower with side-discharge, it’s best to start from the outside of your yard and work your way in towards the center. That way, you are shooting the leaves toward the middle of your yard. This also allows you to mow over the leaves multiple times.

Make Your Own Leaf Vacuum

If you’re handy around the yard, odds are you could build your own leaf vacuum! This is one way you can save money by not spending as much as buying new equipment. If you are interested, you could build something that helps gather the leaves or helps remove them! One man made his own leaf vacuum with a mesh cage on the back of his mower. Check out his process here! Ultimately, if you are looking for a way to save money, consider mowing over your leaves so you don’t have to spend any extra money!

What To Do After You Have Mowed

After you’ve mulched your leaves, you can add some soil microbes to speed up the recycling of carbon from your freshly mowed leaves. Soil microbes help to give the ground nitrogen with aids in the process of decomposition. This helps your grass to be greener when you provide your yard with nutrients. Mulching leaves in the fall helps your yard in the spring and makes it greener. However, you don’t have to mulch only in the fall, though. You can do this whenever leaves are piling up in your yard! If you are interested in soil microbes, we suggest buying Scotts Turfbuilder to help your lawn.

mow leaves and mulch

lawn and yard careIt is vital to fertilize your lawn properly. You can do this at any point in the year, but the best time to fertilize is in the fall. The fall is considered the best time to feed or fertilize your yard. Fertilizer helps microbes in your soil break down the leaves more effectively.

What Not To Do

It is best if you don’t leave mowing your leaves until the spring. If you place chopped leaves in your garden beds in the fall, they will almost wholly decompose by the spring. If you wait until the spring to put leaves in your garden, then the leaves will compete with the plants you have planted for nutrients when the plants need it most!

American Lawns is a website created to share information about lawn care. You can read more under the lawn category if you are interested in learning more about mowing your lawn.

Written By

Hi there! My name is Matt and I write for American Lawns. I've been a home owner for over 15 years. I've also had the pleasure of working with some experts in lawn care and outdoor living. I enjoy writing about everything related to your lawn, pests and types of grass. In my spare time, I'm either spending time with my family, doing a DIY project or learning a new skill.