Can You Mow Over Leaves? (Why You Should Mulch Leaves)

Tree leaves on the lawn can 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. So, can you mow over leaves?

Yes, you can mow over leaves to shred them into tiny pieces that will quickly decompose and add nutrients to the soil. Mulching leaves also reduce the growth of weeds, conserves soil moisture, and prevents soil erosion.

Can you Mow over Leaves?

Traditionally, most people prefer to rake the leaves or bag and dispose them. Raking leaves is not only tiresome but can also damage your grass. Mowing over leaves is recommended as it shreds them into tiny pieces that decompose quickly and fertilizes the soil.

To mulch leaves, you’ll need to use a mulching lawn mower whose blade is designed for chopping the leaves and grass clippings into small pieces that easily decompose on the lawn.

The following are the benefits of mulching leaves on a lawn:

1. Helps in preventing soil erosion

Surface runoff from rainfall or watering 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. 

You can prevent soil erosion in your lawn through mulching. The shredded leaves protect the soil from raindrops that could have washed it away. However, if your area receives a lot of rainfall or the lawn is too sloppy, you should consider extensive means of preventing soil erosion. 

2. It 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), your lawn will be rich in nutrients eliminating the need for fertilizer.

3. Moisture conservation

Watering the lawn regularly is essential, especially during the dry season. However, due to crazy shifts at work, dozen chores, and errands, you might have limited time to water the lawn or even forget.

Underwatering will cause stress to the grass, and if the grass is not drought-tolerant, it might even dry out and die. 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

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

Also read: Is it illegal to mow your lawn at night?

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. You can set it even higher if you do not need to mow the grass.
  2. If the leaves are located in one area, you must spread them to the rest of the lawn to achieve a uniform mulch cover.
  3. Mow over the leaves. You might have to make several passes to shred them into small pieces.
  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.

Check the difference between mulching blades and regular blades

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. Set the mower height higher by at least 3 inches in such a case. You can set the mower at 2.5 inches for a yard with fewer leaves. For better results, it is better to mow fewer leaves than wait for them 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 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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