Grasscycling and leaf mulching

Why buy expensive fertilizers for your lawn, and waste time raking and bagging grass clippings and leaves when you can use them to fertilize your lawn naturally?


Grass clippings are an amazing, free, nutrient-rich addition for your lawn, so before you rake or bag those grass clippings, think about leaving them on the lawn! You’ll save time, water and money that would otherwise be spent on lawn feed.

Starting in the spring of 2020, the City will no longer accept grass clippings in your green cart or during curbside yard waste collection. Grass clippings can be dropped off at the Waste Resource Innovation Centre free of charge, but are better off left on the lawn!

Leaving the grass clippings on your lawn, which is often referred to as grasscycling, can reduce your fertilizing needs by up to 25 per cent, and it helps your lawn hold water so you don’t have to water as often.

Busting myths about grasscycling

Grasscycling causes thatch. Nope. When done properly, grass clippings break down quickly and don’t cause thatch.

Grasscycling leaves ugly clumps of grass on my lawn. Well, it might. But all you need to do is mow over them again, or use a rake to gently spread them out a bit. Clumping is more common if you mow wet grass, so just make sure your lawn is dry before mowing.

Grasscycling creates rot and disease. Grasscycling doesn’t cause disease on your lawn, at least, not when it’s done properly. If you take care to spread out clumps, or better yet, mow when your grass is dry, you won’t cause disease or rot from grasscycling on your lawn. Overwatering your lawn though, now that could cause some problems.

I need a mulching mower to grasscycle. Not true! Although mulching mowers do the best job, you can grasscycle with any mower. If you don’t have a mulching mower and are worried about the grass clipping being too large, make two passes instead. That still beats raking, doesn’t it?

Leaf mulching

Put down the rake and forget about those leaf bags! Mulching leaves into your lawn is an incredible source of fertilization that results in a greener, healthier lawn. Mowing leaves into your lawn can improve its vigor, and help to slow down weed growth in the spring.

To mulch your leaves, set your mower’s cutting height at 7.5 cm (3 inches), and set the front wheels on your mower higher than the back to mow over the leaves. Leaves shred most efficiently when slightly damp, so try to mow after a light dew. Mow fallen leaves about once a week until they finish falling.

As the leaves break down on your lawn they will provide nutrients to the soil, cover bare soil, and help to stop weeds from growing.

Don’t leave thick layers of leaves on your lawn. This can cause the grass underneath to rot.

Other uses for leaves in your yard

Leaves are really useful in your yard and gardens, and, they’re free! You can store piles of leaves in your yard, such as in a composter, garbage bin, crate, or in a corner of the yard protected from wind, and use them year round.

Use leaves for winter protection around plants

Pile leaves up around plants once the ground is frozen to insulate tender plant roots from damaging freezing and thawing conditions. Leaves piled around roots will help maintain a more even soil temperature too, which helps plants survive where alternating periods of freezing and thawing don’t provide consistent snow cover. Remove the leaves in the spring and add them to your composter, or mulch them into your lawn.

Mulch for gardens and under trees and shrubs

Use your mower to mulch the leaves, but instead of leaving them on the grass, spread them over your garden to provide shade to exposed soil. Like any mulch, this helps prevent weeds from sprouting, and helps the soil retain more moisture, plus, as leaves break down they provide nutrients that plants need. Shredded leaves used as mulch also protect plant roots from heat and cold, and retain soil moisture during dry spells.

Use the bag catcher on your lawn mower, mow over leaves and then empty the bag right onto your garden

Used in composting, leaves are a source of “brown” high carbon material

Rake piles of leaves next to your composter and add a handful of them whenever you throw greens in. Adding leaves reduces smells and flies, and helps to create a balance in your composter that will turn into finished compost quicker.There’s no limit as to how many leaves to put into your composter, but if you have a lot, shredding them first will help to break them down faster.

Make leaf compost for your own source of free fertilizer

Set up an area in your yard to store leaves such as in a chicken-wire cage, or a protected corner of your yard where the wind can’t reach them. In just a year, your leaf pile will break down a lot, and be reduced to a fraction of its original size. When you need some compost, dig down to the bottom of the pile for some great material.

Create a new garden bed

Rake a thick layer of leaves to a spot where you want to start a new garden the next spring. Let them sit over the winter and then plant your new garden over them in the spring.

Keep hardy vegetables growing through winter

Extend the growing season for hardier vegetable such as turnips, carrots, leeks, kale or beets by using a heavy layer of shredded leaves to cover them. You may even be able to harvest these vegetables all winter with this added protection.