Mulching vs. Raking Leaves: The Great Debate

Drinking fountain and Bubbler; Pop vs. Soda. Some rivalries never get old. And this time of year, one of the biggest debates around here is mulching leaves vs. raking and bagging them (and you thought I was going to say “Green Bay vs. Chicago”, didn’t you?)

When it comes to leaf removal, I personally would rather mow and mulch my leaves than rake them any day. I even wrote about it in a blog post last year. But I have neighbors, friends and even a co-worker or two who seem to get some satisfaction out of raking in their fall lawn care regiment. One even claims that raking is her autumn physical fitness program.

Let’s take a look at each.

Pros & Cons of Mowing & Mulching Leaves

Mulching vs. Raking Leaves


  • Um, no raking. Need I say more?
  • If you are going to go the mulching route, you will need to make sure that your lawn mower has a mulching blade and be sure to check out your owner’s manual for instructions on how to operate your mower in the mulching mode.
  • The mulched leaves, left on the grass, will create a natural fertilizer and may even help control weeds.


  • During the height of fall when leaves are falling faster than the temperatures, you may need to mow more than once a week.
  • If the leaves are too thick, you risk cutting off light and air circulation that can spell trouble for your lawn.

Pros & Cons of Raking & Bagging Leaves

Raking LeavesPros

  • You can put your gym membership on hiatus for a few weeks. Raking leaves is great outdoor exercise, not to mention jumping into leaf piles.
    (Of course the flipside is tired muscles that you may not typically use)
  • A freshly raked lawn looks very neat and tidy
  • You can use the assembled leaves as mulch in your beds or add them to a compost pile (your own or a public one). The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends an equal part of “Brown” material like dead leaves for carbon and “Green” materials like grass clippings and vegetables for nitrogen.


  • If you don’t have a compost pile and your town doesn’t provide curbside leaf collection, then disposing of your collected leaves could be a pain.
  • If you have pine trees, then you are going to have to rake. The needles don’t decompose as fast as leaves and they can get very heavy and may smother you lawn.

So, where do you fall on the mulching vs. raking debate? If I’ve convinced you to come over to join me on the mulching side, check out our “Choosing a Lawn Mower” article with great advice about outdoor power products to consider.

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