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I have a lot of leaves on my lawn (in Oklahoma). Will it hurt the grass if I leave the leaves there over the winter?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes, if they get matted down - just like covering the grass with anything else would - by reducing sunlight and air circulation.

Less importantly, leaves will compete with the grass for nitrogen - they consume it in decaying.

Oak leaves are especially bad because they're acidic.

Some folks have good results with shredding leaves and leaving them on. Not me. I suspect this may work well (or at least better) if you fertilize a lot, which I don't.

Grass still grows in the winter, except when it's very cold - just a lot slower.

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In OK and TX lawn grasses are chosen for some summer tolerance at the expense of winter tolerance, so frosts will kill (yellow all above ground growth) grass. I've found some leaves can help to delay or stop this BUT I do agree about your comment about matting. So I think the leaves have to be thin and dry quickly. Shredding worked fine for me and we don't fertilize - but we don't shred too many leaves with the mower! – winwaed Dec 17 '11 at 22:41
that's good to know! I suppose i should go out and rake up the leaves now. -__- – Ashley Grenon Dec 23 '11 at 14:32

If you mow over the leaves with a lawn mower and chop them up, they will go between the blades of grass and decompose into the soil. The grass clippings and leaves chopped up make a good carbon/nitrogen ratio for composting. If your leaves are a quickly decomposing type like cherry, a thin layer will not damage the grass during winter, but oak leaves will mat down and deprive the grass of light and oxygen.

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Here, at least, the ratio in the fall is way off - by volume, over 10:1. We have large maples. – Ed Staub Dec 18 '11 at 20:05

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