Can you Mow over Leaves? (Why you should Mulch Leaves)

A lawn with trees is beautiful until they start dropping leaves, and you have to rake constantly. Raking is tedious, and every homeowner dreads it. But do you know that you do not have to rake your lawn to get rid of the leaves?

Mulching is a much better alternative and will not only save you back pain after a raking day but will also nourish your lawn in the long run.

Can you Mow over Leaves?

Mowing over leaves will shred them into tiny pieces, which enables them to decompose quickly, fertilizing the soil. Traditionally, most people prefer to rake the leaves, bag and dispose of them and later fertilize the lawn. Raking is tiring and time-consuming, and having to come back later to fertilize adds to the burden and expenses. However, mulching is easier and environmentally friendly. 

Mulching refers to placing organic or inorganic material over the soil surface to protect it. To mulch leaves, you will use a lawn mower to shred the tree leaves and grass clippings into small pieces that will fall on the soil surface. Mulching is inexpensive and ideal for lawn owners who want to grow organic lawns without using fertilizer and pesticides. 

When the leaves are left on the lawn, they will become a breeding ground for harmful insects and diseases such as fungus and grass rust. The leaves can also smother the grass by depriving it of light and oxygen. Whether to mow over the leaves or rake will depend on the lawn owner but below are the benefits of mulching leaves instead of raking.

1. Prevents soil erosion

Soil erosion can be caused by excessive rainfall or watering on a lawn with poor runoff. The water washes away the topsoil where nutrients and beneficial bacteria are located. A sloppy lawn is more vulnerable to soil erosion, but that does not mean a leveled lawn is entirely safe. 

If you live in an area prone to high rainfall or a sloppy landscape, you can prevent soil erosion by mulching. The shredded leaves protect the soil from raindrops that could have washed it away. However, if your area receives high rainfall or the lawn is too sloppy, you should consider extensive means of preventing soil erosion. 

2. Improves soil quality

The tree leaves in your yard contain nutrients and minerals that were picked by the roots from the soil. In fact, 80% of the minerals in a tree are found on the leaves. When mulched, they will decompose and release all the nutrients and minerals into the soil. 

For homeowners who prefer to grow grass organically, the nutrients will feed the lawn. Even if it takes longer to decompose and feed the lawn (3 – 6 months), if you form a habit of mulching, your lawn will be rich in nutrients eliminating the need for fertilizer.

3. Moisture conservation

Watering the lawn regularly is essential, especially during the warm season. However, due to crazy shifts at work, dozen chores, and errands, you might have limited time to water the lawn or even forget. Under watering will cause stress to the grass, and if the grass is not drought tolerant, it might even dry. But do you know mulching could save your grass on those dry days?

The mulch will shield the soil from the scorching sun and prevent the moisture in the soil from evaporating. The mulch will also protect the grass from the extreme cold in winter.

4. Helps reduce weed growth

When you mulch, you cover the soil with shredded leaves and grass clippings. The cover deprives the weed seed light, which is essential for germination. The mulch also prevents the weed seeds that are dropped to come into contact with soil, hindering germination.

How to Mulch Leaves with a Lawn Mower

Mulching leaves with a mower is easy (compared to raking) but will depend on how many leaves are in the yard and if they are spread within the lawn or just in one area, such as under a tree.

  1. Set the mower to a height of three inches. If you do not need to mow the grass, you can set it even higher.
  2. If the leaves are located in one area, you need to spread them to the rest of the lawn to achieve a uniform mulch cover.
  3. Mow over the leaves. You might have to pass over them several times in order to shred them into as small pieces as possible.
  4. If the mulch layer is too thick, attach a bag and mow over it to collect some and use it in the garden or on flower beds. You can also rake and bag some leaves before mowing to avoid making a thick layer of mulch because it might lead to clumping. 
  5. If the lawn is thin, you can also add some fertilizer. 

Note: Never mulch with leaves that have pests or diseases because they will contaminate the soil. Similarly, it is better to bag for a lawn with mature weeds. 

What is the Best Mower Height for Mulching Leaves?

The best mower height for mulching leaves is 2.5- 3 inches. The mower height you choose will determine the success of the mulching. Before choosing the mowing height, you must consider the following.

  • Amount of leaves on the lawn – if you intend to mulch a lot of leaves, you will overwork the mower, and if it does not have a powerful engine, it might have problems. In such a case, set the mower height higher at least 3 inches. For a yard with fewer leaves, you can set the mower at 2.5 inches. For better results, it is better to mow fewer leaves than to wait for the leaves to pile. During fall, it is advisable to mow once a week. 
  • Time of the year – Since when mowing leaves, you will also be cutting grass, avoid mowing too low during winter as the cold weather will damage the grass. Cut according to the recommended mowing height of the grass on your lawn.
  • Wet or dry leaves – Avoid mulching wet leaves unless it is entirely unavoidable. But if you must set the mowing height as high as possible. Dry leaves are easier to mulch as they disintegrate quickly.


Mowing over leaves is very beneficial to the lawn. The mulch will feed the soil, prevent soil erosion and deter the growth of weeds.  Setting the right mower height is important because it determines the success of the exercise and how the grass grows afterward. Set the mower height between 2.5 and 3 inches. 

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