There are several ways to mulch leaves even if you do not have access to a lawnmower. In order to mulch leaves without using a mower, you can:
- Mix whole leaves into your compost to create fertilizer without mulching.
- Shred leaves with a string trimmer.
- Pile leaves on your driveway and drive over them to break them up.
- Use a leaf shredder to mulch large volumes of leaves.
These low-cost methods allow you to re-use your leaves as mulch or fertilizer with minimal effort on your part. This way you can recycle leaves effectively without using a mulching mower.
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Is it Better to Mulch or Bag Leaves?
Whenever possible, mulch your leaves rather than bagging them as trash. Leaves contain nutrients that your tree pulled from the soil in order to grow the new leaves. By using leaves as mulch or compost, you return the nutrients in the leaves to the soil, fueling future growth for free. If you trash leaves, you are essentially tossing your lawn’s nutrients into the garbage.
- Mulch or compost leaves to re-use them as a weed-suppressing fertilizer.
- Bagging leaves and trashing them removes free fertilizer from your yard.
- Burning leaves is a dangerous and wasteful way to dispose of leaves.
In addition to bagging and trashing leaves, burning is another wasteful way to dispose of leaves. Not only will you lose the nutrients in leaves as you burn them, but burning may also be illegal or dangerous in your area. To reduce the risk of a harmful fire and get the most out of your leaves, mulch them.
4 Ways to Mulch Leaves Without a Lawnmower
If you have a lawn full of leaves but don’t possess a lawnmower capable of mulching them, your first thought might be that you have to fill up a few leaf bags and trash them. This isn’t the case. You can mulch those fall leaves easily without a mower. Simply use the methods below to produce natural leaf mulch and compost.
Compost Your Leaves Whole
If you don’t have a lawn mower for mulching your leaves, you may not need to shred them at all. Although it takes a little longer for whole leaves to break down than shredded leaves, you can add whole leaves to your compost. In a matter of months, the leaves will break down into rich, dark fertilizer.
- Whole leaves can be added to compost, eliminating the need for shredding leaves.
- Leaves will decompose in compost in 3–6 months.
- Mix leaves with nitrogen sources in your compost pile in order to speed up decomposition.
When adding leaves to your compost pile, make sure to add other ingredients designed to kickstart the decomposition process. Dead leaves are excellent brown material for compost but nitrogen-rich green materials, such as grass clippings, are needed to encourage the leaves to break down into fertilizer and organic material.
Use a String Trimmer
If you don’t have a mower for mulching leaves, the string trimmer you use to edge your yard can be used to shred your leaf piles. In order to use a weed eater or string trimmer to mulch your fall leaves:
- Use a leaf blower or rake and tarp to gather leaves into piles.
- Fill a standard trash can ½ full with leaves.
- With the trash can standing upright, insert the string trimmer into the trash can.
- Use the string trimmer like the blades in a blender to shred the leaves in the can, creating mulch.
- Empty the trash can and repeat as necessary until all the leaves are shredded.
One big benefit of this method is that once you’re done shredding your leaves, they’ll already be in a trash can for easy transportation. You can move the mulched leaves to a compost pile or pour them directly into your flower beds to form a new layer of mulch.
Drive Over Your Leaves
Your car makes an excellent leaf mulcher in a pinch. Simply rake your leaves into two long lines on your driveway, about as far apart as your car’s front tires. Be careful to make sure sticks and sharp objects are not present in the leaves, to prevent a tire puncture. Then, simply drive backward and forwards over the leaves to mulch them using the weight of your car.
- Use a rake or leaf blower to pile dry leaves on your driveway in long lines.
- Make sure there are no large sticks or branches in the leaf piles.
- Drive forward and backwards over the leaf piles in your driveway to crush the leaves into mulch.
- Leaves are typically mulched after 5–10 passes with the car.
Once you’re done, all you need to do is sweep the leaves off your driveway directly where you need them to be. In addition to using leaves as garden mulch, spreading mulched leaves throughout your yard is a great way to fertilize your lawn.
Use a Standalone Leaf Shredder
If you have a large yard with lots of leaves, it may be time for a product designed specifically to shred leaves into mulch. Leaf shredders are meant to mulch leaves. Simply load leaves into the top of the mulcher and collect the shredded leaves as they exit below.
- Use this leaf shredder to mulch large quantities of leaves.
- Leaf shredders are designed to handle leaves quickly and efficiently.
- Place a trash can or bag below the mulcher unit to capture mulched leaves for use.
If you position a bag or trash can below your leaf shredder unit, you can easily collect the mulched leaves and use them as you wish. This is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to turn leaves into mulch.
Do Leaves Need to be Shredded for Mulch?
It’s not a good idea to use whole leaves as mulch. Unshredded leaves can form a slick barrier that stops air and moisture from penetrating the soil. This can be counterproductive and make your garden less healthy. Shredded leaves are small enough that air and water can seep through, but the leaves will still form a barrier that prevents weeds from sprouting.
- Do not use whole leaves as mulch.
- Whole leaves can prevent rainwater and air from reaching the soil in your garden.
- For best results, use shredded leaves as mulch.
- Consider using whole leaves in compost instead.
The best use for whole leaves is mixed in with compost. Once the leaves have begun to break down, the compost can be mixed into your garden soil to provide a fertilizer boost.
How Do You Mulch Leaves Without Using a Lawnmower?
Mulch your fall leaves without a mower by using a string trimmer to shred them, piling them on your driveway before driving over them repeatedly with your car, or by using a specialized leaf shredder to turn leaves into mulch. If these options do not appeal to you, consider skipping the mulching step. Instead, add whole leaves to your compost pile and allow them to break down over the next 3–6 months. Then, you can use the leaf mold compost as garden fertilizer.