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Good Question: Do We Need To Rake?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Every fall, we have to do something with the leaves that cover our yards. That's so the grass can freeze, we prevent snow mold and make sure little critters can't destroy our lawns.

However, after a long day of raking last Sunday, John from Maple Grove asked: Do we have to rake? Good Question.

When we ran across Rick Elm raking his leaves in front of his Falcon Heights home, he was working hard.

"Because my wife told me to," he said.

In his first two years living in his home, he would rake and bag all the leaves in the yard.

"I think I counted 100 bags and after that I bought a mulch mower," he said.

He hasn't looked back since.

According to the Sam Bauer, the turf grass specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension, people must do something with the leaves that come down every fall. If they leave the heavy leaf cover on the ground, they will be susceptible to snow mold and critters that can harm a lawn. Leaf cover also insulates grass so it doesn't have the chance to acclimatize to the winter.

So, instead of raking, Bauer recommends people mow their leaves.

"You don't want your lawn smothered with leaves," he said. "They need to be ground up into fine particles and worked into the canopy. Leaves sitting on the canopy are not a great situation."

Or, as Roseville homeowner Paul Husby puts it, "As I'm told, you have to be able to see the grass for the grass to make it through the winter."

Bauer says the ground-up leaves leave less yard waste and offer nutrients to your grass. Maple leaves have been shown to prevent weeds and the nitrogen in honey locust leaves makes for great fertilizer.

"If leaves are dropping frequently, you're going to want to mow more often than you would generally think the grass is growing to mulch those leaves," Bauer said. "It might be two or three times a week to mulch the leaves enough to work into the canopy."

Mowing too thick of a leaf cover will cause problems with the mower and won't cut the leaf pieces small enough. If a person isn't able to keep up with the mulching as the leaves fall, Bauer recommends raking about 75 percent of the leaves to thin them out before mowing.

Bauer says people can use their normal lawnmower to mulch the leaves, but can also buy special serrated mulching blades.

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