You can shred leaves to create compost by running over piles of leaves with a lawn mower. Alternatively, you can use a specialized leaf shredder or leaf vacuum to quickly mulch leaves. A string trimmer can even be repurposed for mulching leaves that are piled into garbage cans. Another great trick is to pile leaves on your driveway and roll over them with your car to create mulch. Each of these methods will break up your leaves, which encourages them to decompose into helpful compost more quickly.
What are the Benefits of Leaf Compost?
Composting leaves creates an excellent source of organic material for your garden beds. The nutrients and minerals contained within the leaves are returned to the soil via the compost. This fuels garden plant growth. So, you can think of autumn leaves as a natural fertilizer that lands on your property for free.
- Leaves contain trace nutrients and minerals pulled from the soil by tree roots.
- Leaf compost returns these valuable nutrients to the soil.
- Composted leaves and leaf mold retain 6 times their weight in water, increasing moisture levels in your soil.
Leaf compost and leaf mold are also excellent at retaining moisture. Partially decomposed leaves can hold up to 6 times their weight in water. This helps keep plants hydrated during dry periods. By mixing in leaf compost, you boost the water retention and nutrient levels in your soil.
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Do You Need to Shred Leaves for Compost?
Shredding leaves before you add them to your compost pile greatly decreases the amount of time it takes for leaves to break down into dark, crumbly compost. Whole leaves can take as long as 2–3 years to decompose in a compost bin. Shredded leaves can break down in as little as 3–6 months.
- Shredded leaves break down into compost in 3–6 months.
- Unshredded leaves require 2–3 years to break down into compost.
- The smaller pieces of shredded leaves are much more easily broken down by soil microbes than whole leaves.
The reason shredded leaves turn into finished compost more quickly is due to the increased edge area that is exposed to decomposing agents such as soil microbes and bacteria. A whole leaf has a tough cuticle covering it, which causes it to resist decomposition. Mulching or shredding leaves break up this cuticle and allows decomposers to invade the leaves at the cut edges, causing the leaf bits to break down quickly.
5 Methods for Shredding Leaves for Compost
Mulching an entire lawn full of fallen leaves to add them to your compost bin may seem like a big task. Not to fear, there are several fantastic methods for shredding leaves that will make the job a breeze. Even better, shredded leaves take up about one-third of the space of unshredded leaves, so you’ll have an easy job transporting those mulched leaves to your composting space. Here’s how to tackle the job:
Whether you have a specialized mulching lawn mower or a standard push mower, either one will work great for shredding those fallen leaves. Simply pile your leaves up in long, low rows and pass back and forth over the leaves 3–4 times to shred the leaves into a fine mulch.
- Pile leaves into long, low drifts.
- Pass over the leaves with the running mower 3–4 times to shred them.
- Use a mower bagging attachment to easily collect shredded leaves.
If your mower has a bagging attachment, use this after the leaves have been mowed until they are finely shredded. Simply pass over the shredded leaf piles with the bag attached to collect your leaf mulch easily.
Your string trimmer can be repurposed to shred the fallen leaves in your lawn. To do this, fill a trash can half-full with fallen leaves, then insert your trimmer into the trash can and mulch the leaves until they are shredded to small pieces.
- Fill a trash can halfway with dead leaves.
- Put the head of your string trimmer into the trash can and finely shred the leaves.
- Your shredded leaves will be contained in the trash can for easy transport to your compost pile.
Once your leaves are shredded it’s easy to empty the trash can into your compost pile and repeat the process. This method can be used to quickly shred a huge pile of leaves in your yard.
When it comes time to tackle large amounts of leaves, nothing beats a leaf shredder. This tool allows you to feed leaves into the top. From there, the leaves are shredded. Then, the mulched leaf material is ejected from the bottom of the shredder.
- This leaf shredder will make quick work of large drifts of leaves.
- Attach a leaf bag to the bottom of the shredder to collect the leaves as they’re shredded.
Most leaf shredders are sized so that it’s easy to position them over a trash can or attach a leaf bag to the bottom of the shredder. This makes it simple to collect the leaf mulch as it’s created. From there, transport is easy.
Leaf Vacuum with Shredder
Rather than gather leaves with a rake and then shred them with another tool, why not combine the two tasks? A leaf vacuum with a shredding blade and collection bag allows you to clean up the leaves from your yard, shredding them as you go. Plus, the bag attachment conveniently packs up the new supply of leaves destined for your compost bin.
- This combination leaf blower, vacuum, and mulcher includes a bag to collect the leaves as you shred them.
- Using a leaf vacuum condenses leaf collection from two steps down to one.
- Leaf vacuums are one of the best options for collecting wet leaves.
Most homeowners are aware that wet leaves make raking next to impossible in fall. A leaf vacuum is one method that makes gathering and mulching wet leaves much easier.
Use Your Car
Who needs fancy lawn tools when you’ve got a vehicle and a driveway? Shred your fall leaves by piling them along your driveway in two long lines, then roll back and forth over them with your car. In just a few passes, you’ll turn those leaves into shredded mulch.
- Pile leaves along your driveway into two drifts about as far apart as your car’s tires.
- Drive backwards over the leaf piles until the leaves are mulched and shredded.
- Leaves piled on a driveway are simple to sweep up into cans or bags for composting.
An added benefit of piling leaves on your driveway is that you can easily collect the mulched leaves by using a large push broom. With your car as the only motorized tool, you can tackle leaf season.
What is the Best Way to Shred Leaves for Compost?
Shredded leaves make an excellent ingredient in fast-decomposing compost. In order to shred leaves and speed up the composting process, try these methods:
- Mulch dry leaves by passing over leaf piles with your lawn mower.
- Put leaves into trash cans and use your string trimmer to shred the leaves.
- Purchase a leaf shredder to quickly shred and collect large quantities of leaves.
- Use a leaf vacuum with shredding capabilities to shred leaves as you collect them from your yard.
- Pile leaves on your driveway and drive over them with your car until they are broken and shredded.
Each of these methods is extremely effective in breaking down leaves so that they can be composted quickly. In just a few months, those leaves will be transformed into rich, finished compost. You can then mix this compost into the soil of your garden and flower beds to help your plants thrive.