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What is proper fall cleanup etiquette? What methods are best for your lawn?

Good Question: What is proper fall cleanup etiquette? What methods are best for your lawn?
Good Question: What is proper fall cleanup etiquette? What methods are best for your lawn? 02:25

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- With rain expected later this week, homeowners have another 24 hours to clear leaves in the yard before it turns into a soggy mess. But before you grab your rake, what is proper fall clean-up etiquette? And what methods are best for your lawn? Good question. Jeff Wagner, a first-time homeowner, rakes up some answers.

The crunchy sound serenading one's stride through the yard means there's work to do. The question now is, should you grab the rake knowing you'll have hours of work ahead of you, or just turn on the mower and plow across the yard?

Fall Yard Work, Mulching Leaves
(credit: CBS)

The Plumier family starts with raking before switching to their mower.

"The very last leaves that come down will all get mulched into the lawn," said Peggy Pluimer.

That's Steve Lange's preferred method.

"Grind them all up, save them as mulch," he said.

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Is there a proper way to clear the leaves in your yard?

"It is good to have your lawn cleared off of debris like the leaves but just try to incorporate them into your grass," said Maggie Reiter, Turf Grass Extension Educator with the UMN Extension.

She said raking leaves is fine, but she suggests doing what feels like the easier method of mowing to create mulch.

How does the lawn benefit from the mulched leaves?

"The leaves have organic matter in them and they have some nutrients. So that gets added back into the lawn and that's beneficial to the grass," said Reiter.

Before firing up the mower, look at the leaf coverage in the yard. If it's so thick that you can't see the grass beneath it, Reiter says raking up some leaves can be helpful. Also, remove the discharge chute and bag from your mower to ensure the churned-up leaves stay put.

Is it OK to put some of these leaves in the street? "No, it's illegal actually to do that," warned Pluimer.

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Blowing leaves into the street isn't just illegal, it's as bad as blowing them directly into a stream or lake.

"They flow into the lakes (from streets drains), decompose and impair the water quality," said Lange.

"They contribute nutrients that are in those leaves and that can cause a lot of problems for pollution in our water bodies," added Reiter.

There are some unwritten rules, too. Lange says it's poor form to blow leaves into your neighbor's yard, while the Plumiers have a tree that leans into their neighbor's yard.

"We sort of feel obligated rake part of the neighbor's yard just to get it even," Ed Pluimer said.

No matter how you clear the leaves, you must do it, especially if they're completely covering the yard. If not, Reiter says the leaves can smother the grass in the winter, which leads to diseases like snow mold. Pests will also hide out in the piles.

Besides mulching, leaves can be used for composting. You can also put them in your garden, which creates a habitat for pollinators while also serving as natural mulch.

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