Leaf ChoppingAstute observers yesterday probably thought we in the landscape department had lost our mind. Middle of November, and we’re mowing the lawn.
We were chopping leaves. It’s really the ideal way to recycle leaves, to put them back into the ground from whence they came, as it were. A Michigan State study found no discernible difference in chopping the leaves into the turf, or hauling them away. (Ever read turf research? They assign “quality ratings” on “turf color and density”. At my house I just aim for green and hope for the best…) As you would expect, potassium and phosphorus were slightly higher in the mulched plots, with no nitrogen change. They didn’t, however, test for soil organic matter, that holy grail in our Champlain Valley clay. Some of the guys in our shop saw Charlie Nardozzi on the Channel 3 news talking about how earthworms literally draw the chopped leaves down into the soil.
Michigan State recommends mulching leaves every week. We concur, especially after sending someone to one of our test spots with a four inch layer of leaves-poor guy was up there mowing, and mowing, and mowing. Your hands are motionless on the steering wheel of the mower, so even in this glorious weather it’s cold.
I haven’t thought about, or done the math for the fuel savings/use for chopping versus blowing, hauling, and composting. I guess I’ll plead to being a tree guy on this one, and say that having the leaves mulched in place is much better for the trees and soil, and if it’s a little more carbon intensive than blowing, well, tough. I’ll bet it’s close to a wash anyway.
I’ll post a third picture in the spring. Anyone recognize our super secret testing location?