Raking leaves? Why not just mow them instead?

A U of M researcher says letting your mower chop up the leaves fertilizes your lawn and helps cut down on weeds.
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For many Minnesotans this is their favorite season.

Leaf raking season.

What's that? Raking leaves is not your favorite part of autumn? And not your back's favorite thing, either?

Well, then you may be interested in the suggestion of a University of Minnesota turf grass researcher who says instead of taking a rake to those leaves, you might be better off running them over with the lawn mower.

Sam Bauer of the university's Department of Horticultural Science says – as long as you don't have a whole ton of leaves – chopping them up with the mower is a good way to add nutrients to the soil of your lawn.

Bauer also tells the Washington Post there's evidence that leaf mowing reduces the number of weeds in the spring, pointing out a study that found dandelions dropped by up to 84 percent.

For Bauer this is not breaking news. He's been delivering a similar sermon each autumn for the last few years.

Last year he explained to the Star Tribune that simply ignoring those leaves (leaving them?) is not a great option because they may suffocate the new grass that tries to grow in the spring.

In fact, if you have a lot of trees in your yard – hence lots of leaves on your lawn – it could be too much for the mower to chew up, Bauer wrote in a U of M blog. This may mean using a hybrid approach of raking some and mowing some.

How many leaves are too many to mow? Bauer writes elsewhere that you don't want the leaves covering more than 20 percent of your lawn, otherwise you could get that smothering problem.

To help your mower chop them into smaller pieces, you might want to cover up the place on the side where the mower usually spits stuff out. Or you could even invest in a mulching blade for your mower.

Then again, you could always break out the rake, even if it's just for old times sake.

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