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?

2 Answers 2


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

At least in cooler climates (I'm in New Hampshire), maple and oak leaves will compete with grass for nitrogen - microbes consume it in the leaf decay process. This is why composters like me mix in nitrogen-rich grass clippings - to speed up decomposition. A few trees, like honey locusts, are legumes and are believed to have more nitrogen in their fallen leaves.

Oak leaves are especially acidic, but on the other hand they don't mat as much as e.g. maple leaves because oak leaves curl stiffly and have a more complex shape.

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 22:41
  • that's good to know! I suppose i should go out and rake up the leaves now. -__- Commented Dec 23, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 20:05

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