The 10 Best Leaf Mulchers
10. Patriot Products CSV-2515
9. Black & Decker BV5600
8. Toro 51619 Ultra
7. Flowtron LE-900
6. Eco-Shredder ES1600
5. Sun Joe SBJ603E
4. Worx WG430
3. Husqvarna 125BVX
2. Worx WG518
1. Tazz K32
Picking The Perfect Leaf Mulcher
There are essentially two categories of leaf mulcher: leaf blowers that can have their airflow direction reversed to suck up leaves, and standing units into which you feed scoops of leaves.
The blower approach has two obvious merits, the first being that these units can be used to gather leaves into a pile in the first place, not to mention blowing pine needles, dust, pollen, and many other materials off of your yard, your patio, walkways, streets, and so forth.
Blowers also offer superb portability; you can easily bring them to the leaf pile no matter where it is in the yard. Their drawbacks come in the form of speed and capacity. A leaf blower used to gather and chop leaves processes them more slowly than a standing leaf mulcher does, and it requires frequent, often messy, emptying of its storage bag.
Standing mulchers are heavier and require more effort to set up initially, but once in place and ready, these units can handle dozens of gallons of leaves per minute, making short work of even the largest leaf piles. A good mulcher can reduce leaf piles by a factor of ten or more, maximizing ease of disposal, or helping you to prepare huge batches of useful leaf mulch.
You can get a decent leaf blower for well under a hundred dollars, or you can spend well over a thousand for a top of the line mulcher/chipper unit. Ultimately, the size of your property and the volume of material you're confronting will be the best way to inform your choice.
Leaf Mulch Vs. Leaf Mold
Simply put, leaf mulch is nothing more than chopped up leaves. It's what you do with your leaf mulch after the initial collection and grinding process that counts. Fallen leaves present the savvy gardener and/or landscaper with a free bounty of versatile material. Leaves can be chopped into mulch useful for myriad tasks, from protecting seeds to fertilizing crops to creating an attractive ground covering used as a design element. If you wish to use leaves as a ground cover, only pass them through your mulcher one time, as you'll want a mixture of material size to create the pleasing look mulch provides.
Keep in mind the fact that you will have to refresh the top layer of your leaf mulch periodically as it breaks down. (And don't use leaf mulch without a layer of fabric or plastic underneath it during the spring or summer if your property is prone to weed growth -- mulch made from leaves can actually enhance weed growth rather than restricting it if given the right circumstances.)
If you wish to put your leaves to work helping ready the next season's soil for new growth, there are a few more steps to take. Leaves are rich in nutrients that can play a huge role in creating superlative compost useful for raising edible foods and brilliantly flowering plants. However, leaves on their own can't create compost; rather, they play a key role in balancing out the green components of compost, such as food scraps and live weeds or trimmed plants. To use leaves in composting, you must first grind them into leaf mulch, and then break them down into leaf mold, a nutrient- and mineral-rich material that is easy to spread about once ready.
Making leaf mold is easy, but requires patience. The simplest way to do it is to make a huge pile of shredded leaves and then wait for a few years. A more feasible approach is to designate an area of your yard in which you can build a pen of sorts large enough to accommodate a few dozen cubic feet of shredded leaves. Dump your chopped up leaf mulch into this pen and plan to keep it moist and, at least once a week, move the material about with a pitchfork, rake, or shovel. Another alternative method is to use a compost tumbler.
If you keep shredded leaves moist and moving, you should have leaf mold within six months. Leaf mold is deep brown in color and will be soft, moist, and delicate, easily crumbling in your fingers.
The Best Way To Use Mulched Leaves
Mulch can be loosely defined as any material spread out on the soil (or in beds or planters and so forth) that is intended to alter the ground environment, be it in aesthetic and/or physical ways. In other words, mulch can help your yard look great and it can help keep the soil and plants within it healthier and more robust.
If you took the time to make a batch of leaf mold, then the shrubs, flowers, and crops you plant or revive in the spring are going to have quite a fine rest of the year thanks to the nutrients this unique material imparts. You should spread leaf mold around perennial plants, shrubs, and vegetables. Make sure never to apply leaf mold in a thickness of more than two inches, and keep the material several inches away from the actual stalk of a plant; leaf mold retains so much moisture it can actually prevent a plant from getting the water it needs if spread too thickly or close to a plant's roots.
If you have thicker, drier leaf mulch you wish to use for decorative purposes, make sure to lay it on thick, as it were. Creating a deep layer of mulched leaves is the best way to prevent weeds from making their way up through the covering, and thick layering will help you achieve a uniformity of appearance, as well. Consider spreading a layer of non-mulched leaves first and then piling a layer of mulched leaves on top; this will further inhibit weed growth and will slow the breakdown of the top layer.