Can a Lawn Mower Pick up Leaves?

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Do you want to cut your grass?

Then you need a lawn mower. There have been a lot of different iterations of this machine ever since it was first invented. Do you remember the old reel lawn mowers? Old or not, they were able to cut grass, and this is what they were good at.

But with time and improvement in technology, these little machines became a lot more versatile.

And one of the things that everyone with a backyard has to deal with is not just the grass but the leaves as well. That is unless, for some reason, there are no trees nearby. In which case, I am sure some people would be very jealous.

So, can a lawn mower pick up leaves? Yes, lawn mowers can pick up leaves. The best way to pick up leaves with a lawn mower is to pass over them with the mower with the bag attached. Alternatively, leaves can be picked up and shredded with a lawn mower and used as mulch.

Interestingly enough, picking up leaves can be done in different ways, and they can also be used for various purposes. Check out the rest of the article if you want to find out more.

What Are the Different Ways You Can Pick up Leaves with a Lawn Mower?

You have several different options when it comes to picking up leaves with a lawn mower.

Picking up and Bagging the Leaves

The first method is the easiest one to do. Simply attach the grass catcher bag to the mower and proceed to mow your lawn as you usually do.

While you are cutting the grass, your mower will also be picking up the leaves off the ground and bagging them.

Alternatively, you don’t even need to mow the grass. You can try to adjust the mower at the top height position and see how well it goes. If the results are not as good as expected and the mower doesn’t pick up all the leaves, try lowering it down a bit.

This method is good if you have to deal with a lot of leaves.

Picking up and Mulching the Leaves

The second method is to use the leaves as mulch.

I really like using both grass and leaves as mulch because they provide vital nutrients to both the soil and the plants, allowing for a great looking backyard with little to no effort.

Mulching can be done both with or without bagging the leaves, depending on where you intend to use the mulch.

When mulching, you need to be careful not to leave big piles of mulch behind.

Leaving thick spots of mulch can damage the lawn and soil underneath by starving them from oxygen and sunlight.

So when you finish mulching, make sure to inspect the lawn and rake the mulch in order to have it evenly spread out.

Overall, mulching is great for leaf patches that are not too heavy. Go a couple of times over the leaves if you need to, until you end up with smaller coin-sized pieces.

I previously wrote an article about the optimal mower height settings for mulching leaves – you can check it out here if you are interested.

Picking up Wet Leaves vs. Dry Leaves with a Lawn Mower

Picking up or mulching your dry leaves is not only a good practice, but it is highly recommended by many.

Dry leaves will put less strain on the mower’s motor, but they tend to create more dust and debris, which we may end up inhaling while working. This is why it is recommended to wear a protective dust mask and goggles too.

On the other hand, picking up wet leaves will create very little to no flying dust particles, but they will be harder to pick up from the ground, and will place more stress on the mower.

Not to mention that there is a higher chance of the leaves clogging the mower, and let’s not forget the additional slipping hazard.

Wet leaves are going to really stick in the bag of the mower, making even the emptying of the bag a potential hassle.

What’s more, even if you decide against picking the wet leaves up and using them as mulch instead, they will not do well in that either. They will clump in big patches that will prove difficult to break down even with a rake.

I would recommend waiting until the leaves are somewhat dry before picking them up with your lawn mower (or using them as mulch).

How to Use Dry Leaves After Picking Them up with a Mower?

If you ever find yourself with so many leaves that you don’t know what to do with them, the good news is that they can be used for different purposes.

Leaves Are an Excellent Mulch Material

Using leaves as mulch is probably the number one way to put them to good use.

Mulch is used as a protective layer that covers the top of the soil. That way, it helps in the reduction of weeds, and it also maintains and keeps the moisture in the soil.

Using your very own leaves as mulch may save you a lot of money in the long run.

Leaves Can Be Added to a Compost Pile

When managing your compost pile, you should be following the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 30 parts brown for every 1 part green.

The good news is that dry leaves are one of the best brown ingredients that you could use. Shredding them will make the leaves decompose even faster, but that is not absolutely necessary.

Composting your leaves is a very simple way to provide yourself with some organic fertilizer free of charge.

The soil that is created as a result of composting can be added to the landscape to fertilize and enhance the soil.

Leaves Can Be Used to Insulate Younger Plants

Leaves are an excellent insulating material.

This means that you can use them to protect some of the younger plants from freezing during the winter.

Leaves Can Be Used as Fuel

Leaves and twigs are a great kindling for starting a fire if you are making a campfire or having a fireplace, for example.

What you can do is store a bag filled with leaves in a dry and cool place and use them whenever you need to start a controlled fire.

What Happens If You Don’t Pick up the Leaves?

Even if you skip a few days or a week or two and end up with a lawn covered with a colorful little blanket of fallen leaves, it will not necessarily damage your lawn.

Here’s the thing.

Leaves are a natural product. As natural and bio as one can get, really.

Small amounts of leaves will not damage your lawn. On the contrary, as the leaves break down and decompose, they will provide a readily available source of nutrients for the plants and the soil to use.

You can end up with a very vibrant looking and thriving lawn, while at the same time you will be using a lot less fertilizer than before — two birds with one stone.

But how much is too much?

You are going to be facing potential problems only if there is a very thick mat of leaves that prevents the air and sunlight from reaching the lawn.

If the leaves are left like that for a few weeks and you don’t do anything to alleviate the issue, the leaves can end up suffocating the grass and soil underneath.

What you will discover once spring comes is that there may be a lot of bare patches on your lawn that will need reseeding.

Another problem with having a thick layer of leaves is that they can potentially introduce fungal disease to the lawn. And additionally different species of rodents, and even snakes like hiding in that kind of area.

Are There Alternatives to Picking up Leaves with a Lawn Mower?

Even though I have tried different things throughout the years, I still feel like the best way to pick up leaves is with a lawn mower. But there are some other viable alternatives, so let’s take a look.

Raking and Picking the Leaves up by Hand

Raking the leaves can be a tremendous job, both very physically demanding and time-consuming.

And a lot of us do enjoy mowing our lawns, but raking on the other hand, not so much. But if you have no other choice, raking your leaves into big piles which then you can pick by hand is still a good way to do it.

Using a Leaf Blower and Picking up the Leaves by Hand

Leaf blowers can make the whole job of collecting the fallen leaves go a little faster compared to raking.

Making a big pile of leaves is going to be much easier, and you will only need to worry about collecting them.

Using a Leaf Vacuum

There is a type of leaf blower that can essentially be used as a vacuum.

These are going to make the whole job super easy for you.

Use the blower to make a few piles of leaves and then use the vacuum option to pick them up. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!