Can You Run Over Leaves With a Lawn Mower?

The crisp autumn air, the colorful foliage, the smell of pumpkin spice – fall is truly a beautiful time of year. But with all that beauty comes a less-than-appealing reality: piles of fallen leaves. You might be tempted to simply run over them with your lawn mower, but is that a good idea? This article will explore the pros and cons of mowing over leaves, offering guidance on when it’s a good option and when it’s better to take a different approach. We’ll also discuss the impact on your lawn, your mower, and the environment.

In short, whether you can run over leaves with a lawn mower depends on a few factors, including the type and amount of leaves, the type of lawn mower, and your overall lawn care goals. Let’s delve deeper into the details to help you make the best decision for your lawn.

The Pros and Cons of Mowing Over Leaves


1. Quick and Convenient: Mowing over leaves is a fast and easy way to clear them from your lawn. It’s often less labor-intensive than raking or using a leaf blower.

2. Natural Mulch: Finely chopped leaves can act as a natural mulch, providing several benefits:

  • Soil Enrichment: Decomposed leaves add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
  • Moisture Retention: Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, especially during drier periods.
  • Weed Suppression: A layer of mulch can suppress weed growth by blocking sunlight.


1. Potential Damage to Your Lawn:

  • Thick Layers: Mowing over thick layers of leaves can suffocate your grass, preventing sunlight and air from reaching the blades.
  • Wet Leaves: Mowing over wet leaves can create a thick, matted layer that can lead to disease and fungal issues.

2. Damage to Your Mower:

  • Clogging: Large amounts of leaves can clog the mower’s blades and internal components, potentially leading to damage.
  • Blade Dullness: Leaves can dull mower blades, making it harder to cut grass effectively.

3. Environmental Considerations:

  • Leaf Removal: If your leaves are heavily infested with pests or diseases, it’s best to remove them to prevent their spread.
  • Leaf Composting: Mowing over leaves can inhibit the composting process, which is a valuable way to recycle organic matter.

Choosing the Right Approach

The decision of whether to mow over leaves or not depends on several factors:

  • Leaf Type and Amount: For smaller amounts of dry leaves, mowing over them is usually fine. But for thicker layers or wet leaves, it’s best to remove them.
  • Mower Type: A mulching mower is designed to chop leaves into fine particles, making them more beneficial for your lawn. Regular mowers may struggle with thicker leaf layers.
  • Lawn Care Goals: If you’re aiming for a perfectly manicured lawn, you might want to remove leaves manually. If you prioritize natural soil enrichment, mulching leaves can be a good option.

When Mowing Over Leaves Is a Good Idea

Here are some scenarios where mowing over leaves can be beneficial:

  • Small Amounts of Dry Leaves: A thin layer of dry leaves can be easily mulched by your mower, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
  • Using a Mulching Mower: Mulching mowers are specifically designed to chop leaves into fine particles, reducing the risk of clogging and creating a more effective mulch.
  • Composting Leaves: If you’re planning to compost your leaves, mowing them first can help speed up the decomposition process.

When It’s Better to Remove Leaves

There are also times when it’s better to remove leaves instead of mowing over them:

  • Thick Layers of Leaves: Thick layers of leaves can smother your grass and lead to disease problems. It’s best to remove them manually, rake them, or use a leaf blower.
  • Wet Leaves: Wet leaves tend to clump together, making them difficult to mow and potentially damaging to your mower.
  • Infested Leaves: If your leaves are infested with pests or diseases, removing them is essential to prevent their spread.

Tips for Mowing Over Leaves

If you decide to mow over leaves, here are a few tips to ensure the process goes smoothly and safely:

  • Reduce Mowing Height: Lower your mower blade to chop leaves more effectively.
  • Mow in Multiple Passes: If you have a thick layer of leaves, mow over them in multiple passes to prevent clogging.
  • Check Your Mower Regularly: After mowing over leaves, inspect your mower for any clogs or damage.


The decision of whether to mow over leaves or not is a personal one that depends on your specific situation. By considering the pros and cons, weighing the factors involved, and following the tips outlined in this article, you can make an informed decision that benefits your lawn, your mower, and the environment. Remember, a healthy lawn starts with responsible maintenance, and understanding the best practices for handling fallen leaves is a key part of that process.


Can running over leaves with a lawnmower damage my mower?

Running over leaves with your lawnmower can potentially damage your mower, but it depends on the type of mower and the volume of leaves. Mulching mowers are designed to chop up leaves and distribute them back onto the lawn, so they can handle a decent amount of leaves without issue. However, if you have a large pile of leaves, it’s best to rake them up first. With a traditional rotary mower, the leaves can clog the blades and cause damage, especially if they are wet or packed together.

Ultimately, the best course of action is to check your mower’s manual for specific recommendations.

Is it harmful to the lawn to run over leaves?

Whether it is harmful to run over leaves with your lawnmower depends on the volume of leaves and the health of your lawn. A thin layer of leaves can actually benefit your lawn, providing nutrients and protection from the cold. However, if you have a thick layer of leaves, they can suffocate your grass and prevent sunlight from reaching it. It’s best to err on the side of caution and rake up any large piles of leaves, especially if your lawn is already struggling.

Remember that leaves decompose naturally, so running over them can speed up the process, returning nutrients to the soil. But, excessive amounts can overwhelm the decomposition process.

Will running over leaves help with decomposition?

Yes, running over leaves with your lawnmower can help with decomposition. The blades will chop the leaves into smaller pieces, increasing their surface area and allowing them to decompose faster. This is particularly beneficial in the fall when leaves are naturally starting to break down.

However, keep in mind that the leaves should be dry and not too thick for the mower to handle properly. Too many leaves, or damp leaves, may clog the mower or leave large pieces that are difficult to decompose.

What type of mower is best for running over leaves?

Mulching mowers are the best option for running over leaves. They are designed to chop up leaves into tiny pieces and distribute them back onto the lawn as a natural fertilizer. This process also helps to prevent the leaves from piling up and smothering your grass.

Traditional rotary mowers can also handle leaves, but they may not chop them up as finely, and you may need to make multiple passes to ensure they are properly shredded. It’s important to be aware that leaves can clog the blades of a traditional rotary mower, so it’s best to avoid running over large piles of leaves.

Is it better to rake leaves or run over them?

The best approach depends on the volume of leaves and your personal preference. If you have a small amount of leaves, running over them with a mulching mower can be a quick and easy way to dispose of them and provide your lawn with some extra nutrients.

However, if you have a large amount of leaves, it’s best to rake them up first. This will prevent your mower from becoming clogged and ensure that your lawn isn’t smothered. Additionally, raking allows you to collect the leaves for composting or other uses.

What about wet leaves?

It is not recommended to run over wet leaves with your lawnmower. Wet leaves are heavy and can easily clog the mower’s blades. They can also make the grass damp and more susceptible to disease.

If you have wet leaves, it’s best to wait until they have dried out before running over them with your lawnmower. Alternatively, you can rake them up and dispose of them separately.

Does running over leaves affect my compost?

Running over leaves with your lawnmower before adding them to your compost bin can be helpful. The smaller pieces will break down more quickly in the compost pile. However, this is not essential, as leaves will decompose even without being chopped up.

The key is to ensure the leaves are dry and shredded. This will help them break down more quickly and efficiently, contributing to the overall health of your compost.

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