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Can you mow wet leaves?

by Jackson White

With the arrival of the fall season, the landscape of your lawn changes with the beauty of different leaf colors falling from the trees. The most unpleasant task during this season is collecting all the leaves even at times wet leaves shed by the trees as they prepare for winter.

Picking up soggy leaves with a rake and your bare hands is a tedious, dirty, and time-consuming job that can be quite physically taxing, but is there an alternative? Can you mow wet leaves and avoid picking them with your hands? The short answer is yes you can, but you might run into some problems with your mower.

Here are a few things you should consider before mowing the leaves on your lawn or yard.

Safety

Wet leaves can be very slippery which can create a hazard when you’re mowing. You can slip and fall and the fact that your fast-moving mower has spinning blades that can easily cause serious injuries. If you’re mowing on a slope or incline, you need to be very careful not to slip and fall. The best thing is to rake them over and wait till they’re dry to mow.

Matted down leaves

When the leaves are wet they tend to stay closer to the ground which makes it difficult for your lawnmower cutting blade to reach the leaves for bagging or mulching. If you still want to mow the wet leaves, you can give them a quick raking to bring them to the surface or let the leaves dry before mowing.

Clogged mower

The same way wet grass will clog your mower blade and under the deck, in the same way, wet leaves will behave, especially when you have a big pill-up of leaves covering your lawn. Mowing wet leaves will put a lot of strain on your mower blade as it tries to slice through soggy leaves. Your mower will tend to stale out frequently and you’ll have to keep restarting it which isn’t good for your engine, also the blade will dull quickly.

Clumping

Wet leaves tend to clump together instead of being chopped into fine pieces. The type of mower you use will determine how bad this problem will be. You’ll mow the wet leaves but the clippings will come out as clumps instead of being evenly distributed on your lawn. You might need to run your mower a few times over the wet leaves to properly mulch them into fine pieces which can take time, especially if you have a large lawn.

Mow frequently

If you don’t want to have problems with clogging, mow frequently and avoid letting your leaves pill up on your lawn. This will make your work much easier since you only have to deal with a thin layer to mow and it’s less hassle.

Bag the leaves

Sometimes the best solution is to bag your leaves and you can use a leaf rake or any other tool available like a leaf blower, leaf funnel, or leaf scoops.

The best way to collect leaves

It can be difficult to remove wet leaves on your lawn. Typically, you’ll need to rake the leaves into piles and dispose of them using a garden sack. This might not be a dirty job, but it’s physically taxing since the wet leaves are moist and heavy to carry and time-consuming.

The following tips will help you clear wet leaves on your lawn in no time even during the rainy season.

  • If you have a small lawn, use a rake designed for raking both dry and wet leaves to collect the wet leaves. A rake with short tines or one that’s adjustable with a durable fiberglass handle to ensure it can withstand the stress of raking wet leaves.
  • If you have a large lawn, it’s better to use a leaf blower to collect the leaves and although you take more time than you would blowing dry leaves, it’s powerful and the best tool to get the job done faster and more efficiently.
  • If you want to mulch the wet leaves for your garden, rake or blow your leaves into 2-3 inches deep piles near your garden. This way you can use a mulching mower or leaf shredder to cut the leaves into tiny pieces, then use a rake or blower to mulch your garden.
  • If you want to remove the wet leaves on your lawn or create compost, pile the leaves on a tarp, then tie the corners of the tarp. This is easier than trying to rake the wet and heavy leaves into a trash bag or bin.

What to do with wet leaves

Mulching the leaves

In some cases, it’s not a good idea to mulch leaves for your grass, especially if they’re wet. Pile the leaves first instead of mulching them directly into your lawn. Wet shredded leaves can create a mat covering that can prevent moisture from getting into the soil. Use the side-discharge chute and direct it at a center point on your lawn, then mow from the outside perimeter inward. This will create one pile that you can easily bag and remove to other places for mulching. To ensure that the leaves have been shredded uniformly, make at least two passes across the leaves.

Creating a leaf mold

If you decide to bag the leaves, you can create leaf mold. However, Instead of using dry or damp leaves in your garden, create a pile and allow the leaves to decompose until they have the consistency of humus or damp soil. Mulching oak leaves on your lawn can make your soil more acidic, but since the leaves are partially decomposed, the pH of the leaf mold is relatively neutral which is perfect to provide nutrients to the soil. You can also use it as mulch, but its thick consistency will create a moisture barrier, but you can till the leaf mold into your garden to provide microorganism activity in your soil improving which will improve the soil structure.

Can a lawn vacuum pick up wet leaves?

A lawn vacuum is a great tool, especially when you want to mulch leaves. You don’t need to mulch the leaves because the lawn vacuum will suck up the leaves, mulch them, then collect them into a bag attached to the vacuum. The lawn vacuum is powerful enough to suck up the wet leaves, but it can clog the mulching device and since wet leaves can be heavy, they can become soggy and add weight to the collection bag attached to the vacuum. So if your leaf blower has the vacuum setting, it’s best to use it on dried leaves only.

Useful tools to help deal with leaves

Garden tool
Usefulness
Leaf scoops
Come as a pair and are made with high-impact plastic. They’re large that will fit around your hands and make it easy to scoop a large pile quickly.
Lawn sweeper
Can hold twice as much as a conventional bagger for quick and easy cleanup.
Leaf mulcher/shredder
Great for large outdoor gardens and eco-friendly landscapes. Excellent for mulching leaves
Leaf roof brush
Extended outdoor broom with a lightweight handle to help remove leaves from your roof
Reusable leaf chute
Affordable upright boxes and guides you can use to quickly fill up bags and mulchers with leaves. Very effective in cleanup projects

Final thoughts

Although you might opt to wait till the wet leaves on your lawn are dry to remove them, you might need to remove them when they’re wet. Instead of using a mower, there are other better gardening tools you can use to ensure your lawn is clear of wet leaves during the fall.

FAQ

What happens if you don’t clean up leaves?

Your grass can die and cause your lawn to have bare spots that will require reseeding resodding.

How long does it take leaves to decompose?

It takes 3-6 months for leaves to decompose in a compost pit, but it can take a year or more if you dump the leaves in a pile and don’t turn them or create a moist environment.

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