Mulching-in-Place Is Not Some New FadShredding your leaves where they are on the lawn, using shredded leaves as a winter mulch on landscape beds, collecting shredded leaves into compost piles, or simply leaving your leaves under the trees in wooded areas are all examples of using Mother Nature's own time-tested method of turning old leaves into new soil.
Watch this short video to see just how simple it is to mulch-in-place:
Benefits of Mulching-in-PlaceWhether you "Do-It-Yourself" or hire a landscaper, LELE provides a number of benefits for your property:
- You'll have a greener lawn because as leaf mulch breaks down it naturally fertilizes the soil.
- You'll have a healthier lawn because leaf mulch improves soil structure and soil biology.
- It also helps improve drainage and water retention.
- "Free" mulch protects and enhances your landscape beds.
- Grass-cycling provides similar benefits for lawn fertilization and soil health.
There are also neighborhood- and community-wide environmental and cost benefits of LELE:
- Fewer vehicle trips to pick up and dispose of fall leaves, so it's better environmentally in terms of less air pollution and fewer gallons of fuel use.
- Quieter, because leaf blowers typically need to be used less.
- Safer, because fewer leaf piles spill over onto neighborhood sidewalks and roads.
- Helps protect water quality in our streams, lakes, and rivers by keeping decomposing leaves out of storm sewers.
- Labor, time, and materials savings at both the municipal and the county level can help reduce operating budgets (and thus provide tax relief).
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers - Did you know?10:1 – That’s the reduction of volume of leaves you achieve when you mulch them with a mower or use a leaf shredder.
60.000 – The amount of tons of leaves handled in Westchester County every fall (Oct. —Dec.) and which could potentially be eliminated as handling waste [Estimates supplied by the Westchester County DEF (Department of Environmental Facilities) based upon metrics gathered in 2010].
$100,000-$750,000 – The estimated savings for specific municipalities from the reduction in County yard waste tipping fees, labor overtime, fuel, and transportation costs, specialized equipment purchase and maintenance, prevention of storm drain clogging, etc.
0 – The number of trips you have to make to the curb to place your bags or blow your leaves if you mulch-in-place.
How Can I Get Started?Nervous about how LELE might look? Read detailed questions and answers in our FAQ section. Read testimonials from local residents and landscapers, as well. Then try LELE on a section of your yard for the first season. The following year, you'll be ready and eager to mulch-mow your entire property!
Here's an informative letter that you can give to your landscaper to help encourage them to adopt the practice.
Landscapers who provide LELE services:
For those DIY folks: consumer mulching equipment is inexpensive and available for purchase online (see Resources list below). We recommend using a high-torque mower for mulching deep piles or wet leaves. A 7 ft-lb torque gas mower should work quite nicely. If using an electric mower, look for 12 amp or greater motor. Note that some trial and error may be needed to adjust the mower height to an optimum level which balances leaving the grass cut high and keeping the in-process leaf shreds from blowing out too early from under the mower deck. A height of between 2.5"-3" is a good place to start.
Be creative! We've heard of neighbors getting together informally to create a "lending cooperative" where mulching equipment is shared as needed during the clean-up season. Too many leaves even after mulching? Share your organic resource with a neighbor who wants more or with your community gardens for compost.
Learn More - Information & Resources on Leaf Mulching
60 Second PSA Spot: Landscaper Challenge
Sixty second Landscaper Challenge spot (see above).
A nicely produced backgrounder video (28 minutes) from Pleasantville Garden Club - LELE video (aired 9/16/11) with Irvington Green Policy Task Force's MJ Wilson and Anne Jaffe-Holmes discussing LELE.
A short audio piece on mulching leaves by NPR's "All Things Considered" (4:16 minutes). Melissa Hopkins of the National Audubon Society calls leaves "a natural vitamin."
- Article from Popular Mechanics - "Mulch Your Leaves This Fall" <- NEW
- Article from Michigan State Univeristy Extension - "Mulch leaves into turf for a smart lawn" <- NEW
- Article from Cornell Garden-Based Learning blog - "Mulch"
- Article from Audubon At Home website - "Autumn Leaves: Let Them Be"
- New York Times article By Lisa W. Foderaro, November 24, 2013 - "Rake the Leaves? Some Towns Say Mow Them" (.pdf)
- Posting from Eco Beneficial blog Nov 1, 2013 - "Put Down that Rake! What Leaves Can Do for You and Your Landscape"
- Article from the Oct 4, 2013 edition of The Journal News (LOHUD.com) - "Mow leaves instead of raking this fall, communities urge" (.pdf)
- Related article from the Oct 4, 2013 edition of The Journal News (LOHUD.com) - "Do it yourself: Homeowners can mulch leaves" (.pdf)
- Article on Ecological Landscape Association website, Oct. 2013 - "Living with Leaves: Transform your practice so business is not 'Picking Up'"
- Article in TURF Magazine (online), Oct. 2012 - "Leaf Mulching Movement Spreads"
- Article in "Resource Recycling" magazine: “Life in a Small Town”. Sidebox “Who’s Doing It” featuring Irvington's LELE program info, and providing a very smart organics management hierarchy including grass cycling, leaf mulching, landscape re-design, and food waste reduction.(.pdf)
- Read the transcript of NPR audio interview (.pdf)
- PleasantvilleRecycles’ monthly tip on leaf mulching - "Facts, Myths, and Numbers" from patch.com 10/15/12 (.pdf)
- NYS DEC Conservationist Magazine article - Oct 2012 issue (.pdf)
- Rivertowns Enterprise LELE article (.pdf) (3/11/11)
- Rivertowns Enterprise LELE article (.pdf) (10/28/11)
- Patch.com article on LELE (.pdf) (9/29/11)
- LoHud article - "Bag the rake, not the leaves" (.pdf) (9/29/11)
- Improve Your Soil by Raking Less - article (.pdf) from Fine Gardening
- A Healthy Lawn is falling from the sky - article (.pdf) from Westchester CCE Horticultural Newsletter
- Turning Autumn Leaves into Healthy Lawns - The Green Man article (.pdf) - Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection
- 'Leave' Them Alone: Lawn Leaf Management - Virginia Cooperative Extension
- Making Leaf Mould (shredding your leaves) - Gardener's Supply
- Put Fall Leaves to Work - Gardener's Supply
- Compost Benefits - why Composting is Useful - Cornell Co-operative Ext., Tompkins County, NY
- Mulch Them in Place/Mow Them - includes mulch mowing tips from Department of Horticulture - Michigan State University
- Mulching - USDA
- Urban Harvest: Fall Leaves: They're a Goldmine of mulch, compost - Houston Chronicle online
Consumer Products and Supplies: links verified / updated 10/1/15