When Is the Best Time to Rake Leaves?

Promptly removing fallen debris will set your lawn up for success come spring.

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Fall is full of natural transformations. Two shifts are guaranteed during this season: slightly cooler weather and rich, vibrant leaves in red, orange, and yellow hues. And while trees fill landscapes with warm tones, their leaves eventually drop as autumn transitions into winter. The first rule of thumb when it comes time to care for the fallen leaves on your lawn? Rake them the right way, at the correct times. "The leaves that fall on your lawn can be beneficial when collected properly or turn into a harmful lawn enemy if ignored," Matt Blashaw, a lawn care expert, TV host, and licensed contractor, says. "I have a ton of trees in my yard, so I prefer to wait until closer to the end of the season before raking all my leaves up at one time."

While you can rake at your own pace throughout the season, Blashaw notes that you shouldn't put off the task; you don't want outside conditions to make this relatively simple job a challenge. "The problem is if you wait too long and you get a hard rain, the leaves can become soggy and cover your lawn like a blanket," he explains. This will prevent your lawn from getting direct access to air and sun to maintain its health. Plus, wet leaves are simply difficult to rake and the moisture underneath them can attract bugs that will eat away at your lawn.

woman raking leaves front yard fall time
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

So, if you do decide to rake all at once, towards the season's close, the expert suggests applying insect control in advance. Blashaw points to Spectracide Triazicide Insect Killer ($7.48, homedepot.com), which he adds to his lawn during the spring to "act as a first line of defense if I can't get to my leaf pickup quickly enough." As an alternative, you can break down leaf collection in two stages. "When the leaves just begin to fall and there is a light layer on top of my lawn, I will use a mulching lawnmower to grind them into a very beneficial fertilizer," adds Blashaw. "I like doing this when there are a handful of leaves on the ground and not so many that you can't see the lawn itself."

However, steer clear of mulching too many leaves, as this can create too-heavy layer of thatch. "Just the right amount of mulched leaves should be turned into nutrient-rich organic matter, which helps your lawn get through the tough winter and rejuvenate faster come spring," Blashaw shares. Another pro tip? He says you can run a bagged lawnmower over your lawn and then add your collection to a composting bin. "After it is broken down and turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer, it can be used right over the top of your lawn come spring or in the garden beds to help with spring color," he adds.

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