Leaf Me Alone
Raise your hand if you're lazy about lawn care? Good, that makes two of us. "If it's green, mow it," tends to be my philosophy.
I tend to be pretty relaxed until something happens that snaps me into action. One year, it was the issue of leaves. One winter, I left all of the leaves right where they were all over the lawn. "No harm, no foul," I thought. Whoa, I was wrong.
Next spring, instead of being greeted by lovely green grass, I had a pile of mushy, matted leaves, and under them: dead grass.
Why you Can't Leave Leaves
Leaves, when left on the ground in piles, create wet mats under which bacteria, fungi, insects, and rodents love to lurk. By leaving leaves on the ground, you're essentially saying "Please come live in my yard little mice and voles. I would love to welcome you." Bacteria and fungi thrive. Oxygen can't get to the grass plant roots, and eventually the grass dies.
What starts as an eyesore in the fall ends up as a big mess in the spring. However, you can avoid that. Here's what to do with your leaves.
What to Do With Leftover Leaves
Raking leaves is an excellent activity. It is fairly strenuous and burns lots of calories. If you don't want to rake and you have a big yard, consider getting a leaf sweeper. These are kind of like leaf vacuums, but they aren't powered (at least, most home versions aren't). They have a brush that spins and picks up the leaves when you push the sweeper.
Use the leaves you've picked up to start a compost pile. Composting leaves is a no-brainer. If you can alternate the leaves with fresh green grass clippings and kitchen scraps, they'll break down even faster. You don't have to have a fancy compost bin to do this. You can just pile them up and let them rot. (Water the leaf pile a little to get it going.)
If You Must Leave Leaves
You can use your mulching mower to run over the leaves on your lawn two or three times. This will break up the leaves into little bits. They will gradually break down over the winter (like a very slow release fertilizer). This is the only way it is safe to leave leaves on the lawn.