Sadly, autumn leaves have to be dealt with. If left whole on the lawn, they can cut off light and air circulation to the grass, and smother it, which may kill it. University research* has found that mowing leaves into your lawn improves the overall health of the lawn, as well as having other environmental benefits. Here are some of the benefits:
- Decomposing leaves provide organic matter and nutrients for your lawn. Organic matter is key to healthy soil structure and happy soil organisms. Healthy soil structure and happy soil organisms are key to a vigorous lawn. The nutrients provided by the leaves decrease the amount of fertilizer you need to feed your lawn.
- Studies show a decrease in dandelions and crabgrass in lawns that have leaves mowed in. The shredded leaves may deprive the weeds of the open space they need to germinate.
- Leaves sent to a landfill take up a lot of space, and the cost is expensive when you consider the resources to collect, transport, and process the waste. Leaves gathered at curbside often find their way to waterways where the nutrients that could be feeding your lawn are causing algae blooms instead.
- It is way easier on your back to mow instead of rake!
So, how do you get all these benefits? Simply run your lawn mower over your leaves. You should do this several times a season. The time is right when your lawn has a blanket of leaves, but you can still see grass poking out. A mulching mower is ideal, but a regular lawn mower also works fine. Run over the leaves until you can see the grass once again. Try not to leave big pieces. By spring, the leaves should be mostly decomposed and working their magic for your lawn.
*Michigan State University
SANDY’S SEASONAL TIPS
NOVEMBER 2015 EDITION
PROTECTING EVERGREEN FOLIAGE FROM WINTER DAMAGE
Rhododendrons emerging from winter with brown curled leaves and brown flower buds are a common sight. The damage happens when the water lost from the plant’s foliage on sunny or windy days, can’t be replaced because the roots do not have access to water in the frozen soil. The plant’s leaves or needles dry out, and when spring arrives, they turn brown. The plants most susceptible to this damage are Yews, Arborvitae, Hemlock, and Broadleaf Evergreens (Boxwood, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas).
Several things can lessen the impact of sun and wind on these plants in the winter:
- Avoid planting evergreens in windy places. Make sure they receive the correct amount of sun exposure.
- Keep plants properly watered throughout the growing season. Continue watering until the ground freezes. Apply 3-4 inches of mulch after the ground freezes.
- Build a sunscreen/windbreak using burlap and stakes. The step-in posts used for temporary electric fencing work well. The posts should be set about a foot away from the plant and the burlap secured to the posts to protect the south facing or windward side of the plant. The entire plant can be surrounded if need be.
- Use an anti-transpirant, such as Wilt-Pruf. These products provide a coating that slows water loss from the plant’s foliage. They should be applied in late fall, on a day when the temperature is near 40 degrees. Make sure there is enough time, at least 3-4 hours, for the product to dry in the daylight. Do not allow it to freeze on the foliage.