shredding oak leaves

stonequeenJuly 23, 2007

I have 5-6 very tall oaks over my back yard, so I have a lot of leaves. I'd like to use them, either as mulch or to compost, but need to shred/chop them. I've been reading reviews of different options- don't really want to buy a big, gas-powered chipper (overkill) but am concerned one of the smaller electric ones will have indigestion with oak leaves. Seems like some of the electric ones use string (like weed-whackers) and some have blades. Anyone have any opinions?

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Here is an image (and a link) to the shredder I use. It's the electric 2.5HP Chicago brand from Harbor Freight. I actually picked mine up on after a little haggling because they're not meant for big, heavy duty work, and people buy them and get frustrated by their slow(er) feed rate...and unload them on the cheap there. <grins>

For composting purposes, it won't get clogged, however the feed rate is pitifully slow because of the small intake. But I will say that it does use blades and beyond the occasional rock that gets past my eye nothing has jammed it up yet.

I use mine principally after the compost is finished to really cut down any larger twigs that make it past the tiller, etc. And nothing beats being able to put a bucket under it to fill up the compost tea brewer...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 3:36PM
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BTW, I wanted to mention that your purpose, you might also want to consider putting the bagger on your mower and just mowing them up... or alternatively, most electric leaf blowers have an attachment on them that turns into a leaf vaccumn that shreds and bags them as they go.

I use this one use:

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 3:46PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I used the Toro shredder/vac and loved it. First off, it vacuums up the leaves, no raking. Second it chops them very fine. Then you have it all in a bag to do whatever you want with. It may take awhile, but I think it's the easiest option.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 6:35PM
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A bag on your mower will do a fairly good job of mulching any leaves you have, and with just a bit of effort and some 2 x 4 timber you can make a frame to raise your mower off the ground a bit so you can rake the leaves in so the mower will shred them more.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 7:22AM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

I use my my push mower with the bag on it. Works great for me. I just wish the bag was a little bit bigger at times.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 7:59AM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)


I run over my oak, maple, and pecan leaves with the lawnmower a couple of times. This works well for spoiled hay as well IMO. Yes, the leaves must be raked up, however the added grass mixed in is an extra bonus...


    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 9:58PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I have used all 3 -

Leaf Blower/Vac/Shredder - chops leaves finely. The bag is small, a lot of stop/start. Sticks/twigs & stones are a problem. It sits in the garage alot.

Chipper Shredder - 8hp does a great job. A lot of work tho plus a lot of gas. It sits unless I have branches, etc. to make mulch. Expensive if you are buying new. I bought mine used for $120 - an older Mackissic, works great, just more work than I wanted.

Lawn Mower - a bag is a MUST, well OK a plus. I have read were people have made a backstop for mowers without a bag. I have used the mower for yrs. even before all of the above. Without the bag, in my row garden days, just chopped tons of leaves to leave (ha) overwinter, helped the soil immensely. If you can get a bigger HP (mulching mower) the better it will chop, esp. if you are going to just leave them on the ground and just continue mowing over them.

So now with the raised beds, I just find a clear area, dump the leaves, mow over them and dump the bag into a garbage can with a plastic bag for later use. Surprised me just how many leaves you can fit when you chop them up. Chopped leaves don't blow away as easy when the winds come.

I prefer the mower - you have just one machine to store, maintain, and worry about. Get an extra blade so you can simply change it out when it needs sharpening. I don't rake under the mower, just dump OPL's, spread some, and chop away.

Plus you can use the mower if you grow the perennial, invasive weed, people call lawn grass.


Hope that Helps,

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:19PM
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I rake mine on to my cement driveway in a long line where the cars will naturally drive over them when rain isn't predicted. I stockpile others in a corner and dump them on the driveway in the spring after the rain stops. I don't have a lawn, so can't bring myself to buy a lawnmover. I would adopt a homeless one, though!

I don't have access to a lot of oak leaves, but use the ones I can get ,along with pine needles, as paths around my raised beds vegetable garden, and after being walked on all summer they are partially broken up and get used as browns in the fall to mix with coffee grounds for the compost pile. Most of my leaves would break down too fast as a path...liguid amber, ash and Bradford pears.

Good luck! Wobur

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 12:54PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I use a lawn mower to shred most of my leaves. We do have shredder/chipper but you have to rake and then lift and then redeposit.

I've found making one pass with mower in mulch mode, then making a second pass with bagger on, then using the mower to move the bagged leaves around is pretty convenient.

I have learned that one pass with the bag on doesn't shred the leaves very much. The mower makes much nicer mulch, when I make the first pass without the bag.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 3:20PM
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If the bag that comes with your mower does not have sufficent capacity you can make a cage to catch the output of the mower. I use one for my large 8 HP shredder/chipper put together with a frame of 2 x 4s with window screen stapled to them. This one is 4 x 4 x 4 and allows me to shred 6 to 8 5 bushel bags of leaves at one time instead of only getting 1/3 to 1/2 a bag for each catcher bag full.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 7:14AM
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I use my old Toro to shred leaves. I spaced my 8" high veg garden frames 2' apart and laid a piece of plywood in the path. This seems to contain most of the flying leave pieces. The bag method gives me about an 1" shred & good portion of fine shred remains on the plywood. Of course I use a separate mower blades for shredding, as there is no way to keep it sharp . I often dream of a

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 4:27PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

A mower is great for leaves on the lawn, but if you've got hilly wooded lots where the leaves fall then the vac/shredder works great.

If I don't do that, they continually blow onto the lawn and other flower beds all fall/winter. This way I can shred them and either put back on the hills or mix in with compost.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 7:10PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Posted by joepyeweed 5b IL (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 25, 07 at 15:20
I've found making one pass with mower in mulch mode, then making a second pass with bagger on,
THis is an excellent way to use the power of your mower as a mulch machine.
Also, if you have a pile of raked leaves(that are fairly dry), Just run your mover over the pile in MULCH mode. Just keep working at it until you reach the ground level. You might also use a rake to disturb the pile a little bite.
Shredded leaves like the is the beds fall amendment to the garden beds. If there are earthworms, the leaves will be converted into worm casting by the next summer.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 12:46AM
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I mow over the leaves under my trees and leave in place, but I collect bagged leaves from the leaf/bagged grass/ branch collection etc public OM dump. I use an electric weedwacker and put the bagged leaves etc in a steel garbage can and use the electric weedwacker to chop up each load and repeat. I also dump some unchopped under trees and add some wood chips on top to keep the leaf/wood cover windproof. It helps the mulch circle less expensive with the leaves being free and then needing less wood chips. I also get free wood chips collecting branches from the dump. I DID have to pay a lot to get the McKessic wood chipper though. I use it quite a bit though with my tree prunings and people dump off lots of branches which I can make free mulch out of.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 4:24AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

If you have room for a leaf bin, you might consider just piling them up for awhile and letting them compress and break down. I have 16 A of woods and the leaves blow into piles against my buildings. We made 8-ft diameter circles of wire fencing and piled the leaves in by the tarp load. Smash them down and keep adding. Jump on it or send the kids in there to smash it.

1 year later the 4-ft high compacted piles have sunk down to about 1-2 ft deep. This fall I'll combine two into one and refill the empty one. I'm hoping by next spring I'll have leaf mold compost.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:27PM
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I personally don't like oak leaves. They are very acidy and my grass don't like to grow around oak trees. Grass grows good with mulched maple leaves. Just my experience.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 10:59PM
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tewitt, all tree leaves are "very acidy". Maple tests at 3.2 pH as does Beech while Oak tests at 3.7 pH. the primary problem with Oak leaves is the tannins they have which helps preserve them but that problem is eliminated by shredding those leaves.
Why grass does not grow around the Oaks you have can only be determined by having a good reliable soil test done to see what is going on there. Good research in the last 25 years has pretty much debunked the myth that Oak leaves make soils acidic, but far too many people apparently wish to continue believing in myths.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine needles and Oak leaves

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 6:49AM
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There are a lot of variables, but two of the most common reasons that turfgrass does poorly under many hardwood tress, notably oaks, are shade and nutrient demand of the tree against which the grass doesn't compete well. It's not typically a local pH issue.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 8:33AM
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Grasses can have difficulty growing in tree shade because of competition with the trees for moisture, nutrients, and sunlight, although soil pH can also enter into the equation. But the soil pH is not a results of either the trees growing there or the leaves falling there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing grass in shade

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 6:40AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I shred all the oak leaves I can get my hands on, live oak in the spring, pin, dumbarton, white and red oaks in the fall. They all get shredded to be used as mulch and top dressed with pine straw or put in the compost bin as a brown. They have only yielded great results for me and when shredded, they seem to breakdown fairly quickly.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 4:38AM
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The weedwacker in a steel garbage can is the best for shredding leaves. I saw it on TV where coca plant farmers tore up the coca leaves to near powder to make cocaine. I think that coca leaves are quite thick as are oak leaves.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 8:10PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Very old thread. I did not real all the comments. But, I used to save oak leave(without shredding and composting, to use as mulch. They are very tough and durable as mulch.

But to shred, you can use your lawn mower. Take the bag out and close all the chutes and keep running it over a pile of leaves. The longer you do it the smaller the piece will get. . BUT make sure they are not too wet. It is a piece of cake.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 11:20PM
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sand_mueller(z 7a, oklahoma)

I'm arguing that leaves break down fungally (leaf mold) and that shredding is completely unnecessary...that the mold grows in nature when leaves fall and layer; excluding most oxygen and that the process begins slowly but speeds up exponentially giving forest soil in about three years. Chopping and using leaves before this molding is completed sacrifices the greater benefits of leaf mold.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:06PM
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