What Is a Leaf Mulcher? Should You Buy One?

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The changing seasons bring fallen leaves. While these leaves are a gorgeous variety of colors, if left where they lie, they may smother the grass below them.

To remedy this, the first tool that comes to one’s mind is a rake. The rake will come in handy to gather the leaves into a pile, but then what? Leaf piles are great fun to trollop through, but leaving large piles of leaves on your lawn attracts insects, wildlife, and creates a breeding ground for fungus.

Bagging up the leaves and throwing them into the garbage seems wasteful and laborious. Instead, you should opt for a leaf mulcher to take care of those piles of leaves.

What Is a Leaf Mulcher?

A leaf mulcher is a type of yard equipment that can be used to grind down leaves. Leaf mulchers reduce the volume of leaves by shredding them with blades or thin wire. This makes it easier to trash the leaves or add them to a compost bin.

How Does a Leaf Mulcher Work?

Leaves are added to a holding chamber where they either trickle down or are sucked into the jaws of the machine. As leaves pass through the blades, they are broken down into smaller pieces.

These smaller pieces make it possible for leaves to be used as mulch around your property, and that is how they claimed the name of leaf mulcher.

While mulch is meant to be a light blanket over the topsoil, the soil below has to be able to breathe. Other forms of mulch such as pine straw or cedar bark are broken down into smaller portions as well.

This ensures that as they lay on top of the soil, sealing in moisture and making an environment unsuitable for pests, there is still ample exchange between the soil and the atmosphere. When this exchange is hindered, plants do not receive vital macronutrients and micronutrients they need to not only survive but thrive.

Different Types of Leaf Mulchers

Leaf mulchers can take many forms. Some use blades to chop up leaves, while some utilize thin wires to slice through the leaf matter.

The mulching part of the leaf mulcher isn’t the only thing that can vary. At a basic level, all leaf mulchers have a containment chamber, the cutting apparatus, and an emptying chamber. Leaves are placed into the containment chamber, and as they pass through the cutting apparatus and become smaller, they leave the vessel via the emptying chamber.

Dedicated leaf mulchers for personal use resemble a barrel. Inside this barrel is one of the two forms of cutting apparatus and the motor that powers the blades. These small leaf mulchers are typically powered by electricity and have a power cord attached to them.

Once plugged into their power source, you power on the leaf mulcher. Then, you carefully add your leaves to the top of the bin. The mulcher will shred the leaves, and they will fall to the ground below in much smaller particles than they began as. It’s easy to place a small bin or bag underneath these leaf mulchers, but be careful to do so before powering the machine on.

If you notice there is a halt in the leaf shredding, do not attempt to shove the leaves down into the barrel. Doing so could result in your hand and arm coming into contact with the blade or cutting wire. These machines obliterate leaves into tiny pieces. You do not want them to do the same to your hand. Instead, power off the machine, wait for the blades to stop turning, then carefully remove the obstruction.

Combining Functions

Other varieties of leaf mulchers combine the functions of other yard maintenance equipment.

One other variety of leaf mulchers is a combination wood chipper. These powerful machines have heavy duty blades capable of shredding leaves and small branches. After demolishing what is fed into the machine, these mulchers then project the small particulate matter out the side or rear of the machine.

Using an industrial wood chipper meant for large pieces of wood is not recommended for leaf mulching. Heavy duty wood chippers have larger blades spaced further apart to allow large hunks of wood to pass through them before being shredded. Leaves could simply pass through these blades, or they may not be shredded as finely as you would need them to be.

The Most Convenient Form

The most convenient form of leaf mulcher is one that also serves as a leaf blower. These models can be powered by electricity or gas. They typically contain a switch that helps you maneuver between leaf blowing and leaf mulching.

Leaf blowers suck in air from the environment and blow them out of a long plastic cylinder to propel leaves away from the machine. This can be used to blow leaves off of sidewalks or lawns and can help you gather them up.

To mulch your leaves, flip the switch on the machine to make it suck the leaves up from the lawn and into the mulching blades. After mulching, they are propelled into a bag that is attached to the back of the machine. This bag collects your pulverized leaves and makes storage and locomotion easier. Lugging a small bag of leaf bits is much easier than hauling several large bags full of uncondensed leaves.

Alternatives to a Leaf Mulcher

If you’re not looking to invest in another piece of lawn equipment, you may consider the alternatives to a leaf mulcher.

Your first option is to not mulch the leaves at all. Instead of breaking the leaves into smaller pieces by means of machinery, you could let natural processes break them down.


Leaves are an excellent ingredient for compost. Leaves add vital carbon to a compost pile and can supply other nutrients based on the leaf pile. To reuse and recycle your leaves, combine one part leaves to one part green matter such as vegetable scraps from your kitchen.

Composting leaves is a great way to put this yard waste to good use, but breaking down whole leaf matter can take a considerable amount of time. If you’re wanting compost in a hurry, or you have a compost pile that is almost ready for use, and you don’t want to halt its progress, you should still mulch the leaves.

Lawn Mower Bag

When you want shredded leaves but don’t have the storage space available for a leaf mulcher, you could consider a lawn mower bag. These bags attach to the output portion of your lawn mower’s deck. Attach your bag, then power on your mower. If you have a large leaf pile, set your mower at the highest height deck possible. Then, go over the leaf pile with your lawn mower. If leaves are still left, lower your deck height and repeat.

You should continue this process until all of the leaves are run over, paying close attention to not scalp your lawn in the meantime. Scalping happens when a mower blade is set too low to the ground and sheers the grass down until it is no longer visible. This creates barren patches in your lawn. If you do scalp the lawn, there’s no need to have a meltdown. Bald patches can easily be corrected by reseeding the area or applying a small patch of sod.

When you have completely demolished your leaf pile, you can cut the power to your mower and remove the waste catching bag. Now you have finely milled leaves that are ready to be used as mulch around trees or flower beds, or you can easily add it to your compost pile.

No Mulching?

Forgoing the use of some form of leaf mulching isn’t recommended. Handling large piles of leaves in their full form can be messy and exhausting. Once you are convinced that leaf mulching is necessary in yard maintenance, but you’re not convinced that you need to invest in another apparatus to do so, attaching a leaf bag to your mower and using the cutting machine you have on hand is a great option.

If you have the funds to purchase and the space to store a leaf mulcher, it’s best to invest in one. If you’re concerned that its use will be infrequent, you can loan it to a friend or allow others to bring their leaves to you to be shredded. More use will mean that you get the most out of your purchase, but less use means the equipment and its blades will last longer.

How Much Should You Spend on a Leaf Mulcher?

The cost of your leaf mulcher is going to vary based on which form of leaf mulcher you invest in.

For combination leaf blowers and mulchers, you can expect to pay $150 at most.

Small wood chippers that have blades small enough to shred leaves as well can vary greatly in price. This is due to each chipper’s capabilities. Mulchers capable of breaking down small branches of only one to one-and-a-half-inch diameter will cost around $200. Powerful shredders capable of demolishing branches up to two-and-a-half inches in diameter can cost you over $1,000.

Dedicated leaf mulchers with a barrel design can cost around $120. These machines are very lightweight, and most fold or can be taken apart for storage. This makes them an excellent option for people who need their leaves mulched but don’t have the space to store a bulky wood chipper.

If you see a leaf mulcher priced way below these ranges, be very cautious. You get what you pay for, and some deals are just too good to be true.

Leaf Mulcher Recommendations

The WORX Bladeless Electric Leaf Mulcher (link to Amazon) is an exceptional option for a dedicated leaf mulcher. This powerful machine can mulch up to 53 gallons of leaves per minute. In place of large blades, heavy duty metal wire chops up leaves to turn up to 11 bags of leaves into just one.

WORX’s leaf mulcher is easily assembled, and only weighs 20 pounds. Since it requires no tools for assembly, the mulcher is also easily disassembled for storage.

Reviews of this mulcher brag about its easy assembly and powerful cutting abilities. Using metal lines to cut instead of blades makes replacing them a breeze and eliminates the need to sharpen blades.

The BLACK+DECKER 3-in-1 Electric Leaf Blower, Leaf Vacuum, Mulcher (link to Amazon) will make dealing with fallen leaves a breeze for many years to come. With a 12-amp mower, this combination machine powers through leaf blowing and mulching.

As compact as this motor is, it can still put up a fight with its competitors. This Black + Decker blower and mulcher can take 10 bags of leaves and break them down into one bag. Tool-free switching allows you to go from leaf blowing, to vacuuming, to mulching, in seconds.

Previous purchasers of this machine are in awe of its ease of use and power.

Can You Rent a Lawn Mulcher?

In the age of convenience, you’re fortunate to have the opportunity to rent almost any piece of lawn equipment. At large chain home improvement stores, you can rent almost any type of lawn equipment from leaf mulchers to dethatchers. You can even stop by the hardware department and rent a drill or chainsaw while you’re at it.

If you have your eye on a particular leaf mulcher, you can contact the brand manufacturer directly to see if they offer equipment rentals. While they may not facilitate the rentals, they will be able to tell you where you can go to rent the particular leaf mulcher you seek.

Final Thoughts

Leaf mulchers allow you to turn waste into fuel for your lawn. When leaves are broken into tiny pieces, they decompose quicker. This decomposition releases nutrients that are vital to the life of your lawn’s grass and other plants. You can spread the leaf pieces as mulch, or you can add them to a compost pile. Compost is the most natural form of fertilizer and can be spread into your lawn or around plants that need a proper feeding.

You should get a leaf mulcher, but which type you purchase is entirely up to you. Consider the space you have for storage, your user level, and your budget when debating which mulcher to buy.

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