The Mulchinator

Autumn after autumn, I’ve gazed longingly at the fallen leaves from our three hardwood trees, knowing what excellent mulch they would make if I could only shred enough by hand without going bonkers or developing carpal tunnel.

The problem is you can’t just throw large chunks of organic matter into your garden without kickstarting the decomposition process first. If you mix a big pile of intact leaves into the soil, naughty microbes will steal nitrogen from plant roots to aid with the leaves’ decomposition. So your plants will actually look and feel less healthy for a couple of months. Not to mention whole leaves can form an impenetrable mat that won’t let water through.

Hubby and I don’t usually like — or have the room to store — fancy electrical garden gadgets, but our vegetable beds and soon-to-be-planted fruit orchard are going to need more and more mulch. We’d rather make our own instead of having it trucked in from the store, so during our Pact Free time in November, we decided to buy the Worx WG500 Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum. Or as I prefer to call it, The Mulchinator.

This thing literally crunches ten bags of leaves down to one bag of finely-shredded goodness. Now we can use the leaves in our garden beds without worry, knowing they will add potassium and phosphorous while helping the soil’s infiltration, drainage and water-holding capacity. And we’re hoping that the neighbors will let us suck up their leaves as well. Everyone’s yards will look shiny, and maybe we’ll take a little bite out of the yard waste that makes up 20% of landfills.

Be sure to listen to this next time you’re gathering fallen leaves…

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  • The Mulchinator will not work if you get chickens. They will scratch it all away. I’ve resorted to placing small cages around vulnerable plants or growing a living mulch ground cover of creeping jenny in my beds to keep the moisture in and keep the chickens from doing too much damage. It’s true that the girls keep the pest population down but they are scratching machines!

    I’ve got my own leaf experiment going on. I’ve mixed large mounds of leaves with horse manure, wet everything down and covered them with tarps. Hopefully, I’ll get some nice compost from it.

    I’m also feeding leaf mulch to my worms which I keep in a bin in my basement.

  • Oooo, let me know how the leaf/horse manure experiment goes. A Master Gardener recently told me one of the stables in town will let anyone get their fully-composted manure, so I might try the same thing.

    And what kind of container do you keep the worms in?

    p.s. Brad is jealous you have a basement.

  • If you can get fully-composted manure, you don’t need to add leaves or anything. Just put it around your plants. Next spring we’re planning to build a big double compost storage area that we can collect the manure in. It might have a concrete floor. Each area needs to be wide enough for the tractor’s front-end loader, about 8 feet wide. I’d like to have a cover or roof for it too, but I may have to settle for tarps. For now, most of the manure is piled in one big mound on the ground.

    For the worm bin, I bought three matching rubbermaid containers. I left the first one intact. The second one has holes drilled along the top edge and in the bottom of the container. I put a couple of bricks in the first container and then put the second container into the first one so it’s sitting on the bricks. (in case water needs to drain from the second container) Then I filled the second container with shredded paper, cardboard and leaves and made everything wet with a spray bottle. This is what the worms live in. I periodically add chopped up kitchen scraps for the worms to eat and add sprayed water. Worms need a wet environment to breathe but if it’s too wet they can drown. After the worms had eaten most of their bedding in the second container (it took about 3 months), I drilled holes along the edge and bottom of the third container and put it on top of the one with the worms (second container). Then I filled the third container with shredded paper, cardboard and leaves and wet everything down. After a few days, all the worms from the second container had migrated up to the third container with the new bedding, leaving their vermicompost in the second container for me to harvest. Honestly, I’m surprised how well it worked!

    Next year, I plan to try an outdoor worm bin that I can add manure to and see how it works during the warmer months.

    I love having a basement. It’s the first one I’ve ever had!

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