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The Joy of Gardening - ARCHIVES

Whether prairie plant or pansy, native or ornamental, gain insight into all aspects of gardening & wildlife.

Leaves Smothering My Lawn

For some reason the leaves on several of my trees did not fall this year. After the fall cleanup, the two snows in mid-December knocked them all down, and now they are buried under the snow. I've heard that accumulated and packed down leaves will smother and kill off the grass. Also, it makes the grass more susceptible to diseases. Is there anything that can be done? Or is there anything that I can spray on the lawn to help negate the effect of the excess leaves?


Plants use a combination of daylight and temperature cues to tell the seasons. This year, due to the exceptionally warm autumn we had, and then that drastic change to cold, some trees, especially non-natives, were not able to drop their leaves. Buckthorn and Bradford Pear are two trees that were still green as we experienced the sudden and dramatic onset of winter.

I cannot speak to the quantity of leaves nor the leaf type that you currently have on your lawn. Regardless of this however, I would recommend that you do not do anything during winter. Wait until next year in the spring. During these freezing temperatures there will be no onset of disease or damage to your lawn due to the leaves. You will likely do more damage trying to remove the snow and leaves at this stage. When the snow melts in spring you can remove the leaf cover, however even then, proceed with caution. The ground will be wet and you do not want to tear up the lawn or cause compaction, as this will further encourage disease.

In order for you to be able to spray the lawn, snow and leaves will need to be absent. By this stage I would advise to simply allow the flow of fresh air and sunshine to remedy any disease problems that might be present. Lawn molds in early spring generally do not cause permanent damage to the lawn. They are primarily aesthetic and disappear in time. Although fungicides can be sprayed preventatively in autumn if mold problems reoccur annually, it is often not necessary. Instead try to diagnose what is causing the mold; i.e. foot traffic in winter, compaction, large snow piles.

So at this stage I would recommend waiting until spring and seeing what the next season brings before taking action.

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