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Five Reasons Leaf Mulch Is Worth Your Time

Updated on September 20, 2019

1. Leaf mulch will divert yard waste from the landfill.

Unfortunately, my local municipality isn't great about collecting yard waste for composting. Sure, there's a division of the waste services group that collects and offers mulch back to the public once or twice a year, but their efforts only touch a very small portion of the yard waste in this area. Much more often, I see the trash collectors adding bags and bags of grass, leaves and twigs right into the garbage truck.

By using the leaves as mulch, I'm reducing the landfilling of nearly 100% of my yard waste. First, by grinding it up first with a leave grinder, it's taking up a lot less space. Some websites say it's 11:1, others say as much as 16:1, of the amount of space un-shredded versus shredded leaves take up. Second, I'm not sending any of it to the landfill, regardless of space. In these smaller quantities (measured in bags), I'm able to use all of it in my vegetable, flower and perennial beds and around my trees and shrubs.

2. It's natural fertilizer for my garden and plants.

Nature is a great gardener! Look at any forest floor and you'll see years of decaying leaves and the native plants thriving in it. For around my trees and in my shaded perennial beds, I am just using shredded leaves as a mulch. It works in nature!

For my vegetable garden, I've mixed shredded leaves with the last of the season's grass clippings, lasagna style. I'll let this cure over the winter, protecting the area from those pesky winter weed seeds that love to grow in the off season. In the early spring, I'll clear most of it out and put it under other shrubs (probably the azaleas) and mix into the soil the bottom layers that have decomposed.

3. It's free.

Before I knew about the downsides of pine bark mulch, I was buying bags and bags of the stuff. At roughly $4/bag, I was spending a small fortune to get even minimal coverage in my beds. With more beds that will need mulch planned, this expense would only get higher. Even if I had a truck (which I don't) to buy mulch in bulk, that would take a lot of effort to spread and I'd rather do it a little at a time as I tend to each bed. The leaves are free and I can store and move them as I work the beds.

4. It's great exercise for me.

Raking leaves is great cardio. In 2 hours yesterday, I got in over 11,000 steps and did quite a bit of bending / lifting to get the leaves into the shredder. I love being outside and with the season change, this is a great excuse to get in some outside activity!

There's also the cost savings from not paying the guy who mows our yard to take care of the leaves, which was several hundred dollars last year!

5. Mulching encourages frequent raking, ensuring my lawn can breathe.

Last year our zoysia lawn was covered in leaves most of the fall and winter. I hadn't yet grown comfortable (or motivated) to work much in the yard beyond a few beds, so we outsourced the leaf-related tasks to our lawn guy. He only came out a few times and the sheer quantity of leaves dropped in even one weekend is enough to cover the entire lawn.

By spring, our lawn was uncovered but the effects of being covered most of the winter were still apparent. We had a mildew/fungus growing and had to have that treated with chemicals. I hate chemicals in my yard and it was costly. I'm hoping the more frequent raking inspired by creating the leaf mulch, which would be unmanageable if not done a little at a time, will help avoid all of that this coming spring.


I've invested a few hours the last two weekends in mulching up my leaves. If my only motivation were to clean up the lawn, my efforts would be futile. The lawn is inevitably covered in leaves again within 24 more hours. The reasons above will keep me going until all of the leaves have been mulched up!

© 2019 Phoebe Lee


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