If you have lots of big, mature trees on or around your property, you know what that means: hours and hours of picking up leaves, year in and year out.
Everyone goes through it, no one likes it. And everyone wants an easier way to get it done! You might have heard some people recommend a leaf mulcher for the job. What is a leaf mulcher?
A leaf mulcher is a tool that chops up leaves into smaller pieces, making them easier to bag or otherwise dispose of. They are useful for turning leaf litter into useful compost, making a laborious job a lot easier.
Leaf mulchers come in hand-held and free-standing types, both electric and gas-powered models, and they vary in terms of power, size, and price.
Leaf mulchers are a great tool, and can definitely do what they say they will do, but they aren’t a must-have for everyone.
If you’re considering getting a leaf mulcher, there is lots more to learn and consider, so keep reading!
How do Leaf Mulchers Work?
Leaf mulchers work by using a set of blades or rotary wires to chop leaves up into smaller pieces.
The blades are usually located in a cylindrical housing, and as the leaves are fed into the housing they are chopped up into smaller and smaller pieces.
Some models have multiple sets of blades that work in succession to create very small pieces, while other models only have one set of blades.
The smaller the pieces that the leaf mulcher can create, the better it is at composting leaves.
If you’re planning on using your leaf mulcher for composting, look for a model that can create extremely small pieces (sometimes called “shreds”).
If you’re just looking for a way to make bagging leaves easier, any model will do the trick.
What are the Main Types of Leaf Mulchers?
Leaf mulchers come in two main types: handheld models that resemble big leaf blowers and free-standing or “hopper” fed models you load from the top.
Handheld leaf mulchers are the most popular type because they are less expensive and more versatile than their free-standing counterparts.
Handheld models typically use an electric motor to power the blades, although some gas-powered models are available.
They are easy to carry and maneuver around your yard, and many can double as a leaf blower or yard vac in a pinch.
The downside of handheld models is that they can be tiring to use for extended periods of time, and they might not have the capacity to chop up tons and tons of leaves.
If you have a lot of trees or very tough leaves, you might be better off with a free-standing model.
Free-standing leaf mulchers are larger and more powerful than handheld models, but they are also more expensive and less versatile.
Free-standing models are usually gas-powered, and they have a hopper on top that you can load leaves into. The leaves are then fed into the housing by a rotating auger, and chopped up by the blades inside.
Free-standing leaf mulchers can handle larger volumes of leaves than handheld models, and they can chop the leaves up into very small pieces as they are fed right into a bag or canister.
If you have a lot of trees or tough leaves, a free-standing leaf mulcher is probably your best bet.
Some Ride-On Lawnmowers Can Mulch Leaves, Too
If you have a lot of leaves and a large property, you might want to consider getting a lawnmower that can mulch leaves.
Many ride-on lawnmowers have a special “mulching” attachment that allows you to chop leaves up as you mow and feed them directly into a carried or towed bag for disposal.
This can be a great way to take care of leaves with an “all-in-one” machine without having to invest in a separate leaf mulcher.
Mulched Leaves Take Up Less Room than Whole Ones
One nice perk of a leaf mulcher is that the mulched leaf bits take up far less room in garbage bags, wheelbarrows, compost piles, and so forth.
This allows you to get rid of leaves more quickly and efficiently, without having to make as many trips or use as many bags for disposal.
Anything you can do to gain an edge in efficiency will save you time, effort, and energy in the long run, so you should definitely consider a leaf mulcher if you dread having to clear your property of leaves in the fall.
Composting with a Leaf Mulcher
As we mentioned above, leaf mulchers can be used to chop leaves up into very small pieces that are ideal for composting.
If you’re planning on composting your leaves, look for a model that can create extremely small “shreds,” as these will decompose more quickly.
To compost with a leaf mulcher, simply load the leaves into the hopper (if you have a free-standing model) or suck them into the mouth of the machine (if you have a handheld model).
The blades will chop the leaves up into small pieces, and you can then add them to your compost pile.
As the leaves break down in the compost pile, they will release nutrients that are beneficial to your plants, and help to aerate the soil.
This makes leaf mulchers not only a great time-saving tool but also a great way to give your garden a boost by supercharging your compost pile.
Just be sure to use leaves from trees that have not been treated with chemicals, as these could harm your plants.
Also, avoid adding too many leaves at once, as this could create an imbalance in your compost pile.
A good rule of thumb is to add two parts of “green” material (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) to one part of “brown” material (wood chips, straw, etc.)
Do You Need a Leaf Mulcher?
So, is a leaf mulcher right for you? Is this an added benefit option in your lawn care arsenal or just a “cool to have” tool?
If you have a lot of large trees on or near your property, and dealing with leaves in the fall is a days- or weeks-long affair, you probably want one of these things.
Similarly, if pumping up your compost pile with copious, high-quality leaf litter sounds like a winning proposition, a leaf mulcher is indispensable.
However, if you don’t have a large yard, don’t have any trees that drop their leaves, or just don’t care about them lying around, a leaf mulcher is not going to be a must-have investment.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.