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4 Simple Ways to Shred Leaves Without a Shredder

4 Simple Ways to Shred Leaves Without a Shredder

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At our last home, we had an unbelievable amount of leaves fall prior to winter. This was always a huge ordeal to take care of, and it seemed like every time we cleaned them up, another large batch would fall in their place.

At our current house, we have a couple of acres, and while we don’t have many trees, we do have a compost area where we can put the leaves to good use. That’s something we didn’t have at our last home.

Whether you’re composting, bagging, or doing something else with your leaves, it’s often a good idea to shred them. But what do you do if you don’t have a leaf shredder?

In this article, I’ll go over some alternative methods for shredding your leaves, as well as what to do with them after they’ve been shredded.

How to Shred Leaves Without a Shredder

While having a leaf shredder or mulcher can be quite convenient, if you’re like me, it’s hard to justify the expense for something you’ll likely only use for one week out of the year. If you can justify the expense, it’s a nice piece of equipment to have on hand.

For the rest of us, we’ll have to resort to one of the alternatives below.

1 – Use a Lawn Mower

Lawn Mower Cutting Grass and Leaves

One of the easiest ways to mulch your leaves without a shredder or mulcher is to use your lawn mower. This could be a push mower or riding mower. In either scenario, a bag attachment is an ideal way to collect the shredded leaves.

If you don’t have a bag attachment, start mowing from the outside of your yard, pushing your leaves toward the center. This way, you’ll continue to shred your leaves over and over, and you’ll push them to a convenient collection area in the middle of your yard.

2 – Use a Lawn Trimmer

A lawn trimmer, often called a weed whacker or weed eater, is another piece of equipment that you might already own. The trick to shredding leaves with a trimmer is to confine the leaves to a small area so they don’t go all over the place.

One trick that I’ve seen mentioned in several places is to put your leaves in a garbage can, then use your trimmer to break them down. This can work well for smaller batches of leaves, but probably isn’t ideal if you have a lot of them.

3 – Rent a Wood Chipper

Wood Chipper

Another option for shredding leaves without a leaf mulcher is to use a wood chipper. While you probably don’t have a wood chipper on hand, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one to rent at a local equipment rental facility or hardware store.

Most wood chippers work just fine for shredding leaves, and while this option isn’t free, it should be much cheaper than purchasing a leaf shredder, which isn’t always readily available at equipment rental facilities.

Another advantage of using a wood chipper is that you can also use it to break down your small limbs and twigs that have likely fallen along with your leaves.

4 – Drive or Walk Over Them

One last option to shred your leaves is to either driver over them with your car or walk over them. To do this, rake or blow your leaves onto your driveway or walking paths, then drive or walk over those areas like you normally would.

For this to work, the leaves need to be dry, so make sure you check the weather and time it accordingly.

What to Do with Shredded Leaves

Now that you have all of your leaves shredded into fine bits, what should you do with them? Hopefully, you already had something in mind before shredding them, so all that work wasn’t for nothing.

Here are some common uses for shredded leaves.

1 – Bag Them

Bagging Up Leaves

While you don’t need to shred leaves before bagging them to be picked up (or taken to a local yard waste facility), shredding them first allows you to fit more leaves in each bag. This is due to the amount of space between the leaves in a typical bag of unshredded leaves.

2 – Add Them to Your Compost

Composting Leaves

Composting is a great way to turn your fallen leaves into something useful for your soil. Leaves are considered to be a carbon-rich, “brown material,” which provides beneficial nutrients for your compost pile.

Leaves don’t break down easily on their own, so by shredding them, you can significantly speed up the process.

3 – Put Them Around Your Plants

Using shredded leaves as mulch is a great way to protect your plants and provide them with essential nutrients. The initial layer of shredded leaves helps to suppress the growth of weeds, and as the leaves break down, they provide the soil with nutrients, just as they would in a compost pile.

4 – Leave Them on the Lawn

If you shredded your leaves by using a lawn mower, the most convenient thing to do with them is to leave them on your lawn. As they break down, they will provide your soil with nutrients. Just make sure the layer of shredded leaves isn’t too thick on top of your grass.

Final Thoughts

Although leaf shredders and mulchers make it really easy and convenient to shred your leaves, most of us can’t justify the cost for a piece of equipment that’ll only be used once a year. Fortunately, you have alternatives when it comes to shredding leaves. Simply pick the one that works best for you, and give it a shot.

Susan Brown

Monday 12th of October 2020

Do you have any good advice for composting mixed paper? Guidelines?

Jeff Bridenstine

Friday 16th of October 2020

Hi Susan,

Most paper and cardboard is fine for composting. However, try to avoid composting anything covered in a lot of fat or grease, as well as any paper that might be treated with chemicals (magazines, etc.). Another thing to keep in mind is the quantity of mixed paper that you add to your compost, as too much can offset the carbon-to-nitrogen balance. I hope this helps!