Leaf Mulch vs Wood Mulch: The Best Mulch for Your Garden

Having a garden can sometimes be more than a hobby. A vegetable garden, for instance, can serve as a means of having fresh vegetables for dinner every night. The best thing you can do for your garden is maintenance, and what better way to do that than mulching.

Mulching is the process of adding a layer of material (leaves, wood, pines) onto the soil’s surface. It helps to reduce weed growth, improve fertility temperature regulation, and keep your garden healthy. Leaf mulch and wood mulch are two different kinds of mulch to add to the surface of your soil.

One significant difference between leaf mulch and wood mulch is that leaf mulch breaks down quickly into organic matter; therefore, it needs to be replaced regularly. On the other hand, Wood mulch takes longer to break down, so it does not need to be replaced consistently.

Leaf Mulch vs Wood Mulch
 Leaf MulchWood Mulch
Long-lastingIt only lasts you for up to a year when done correctly.It can last you for several years; wood chips can last 5-7 years, and bark mulch can last 7-19 years.
DecompositionLeaf mulch will take 3-6 months before fully decomposing.Wood mulch will take 2-4 years before it is fully decomposed.
TillingLeaf mulch can be tilled into your soil and not damage your plants.Constant tilling of wood mulch into your soil will remove nitrogen from plants.

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Leaf Mulch

What is leaf mulching? This is the process of using leaves as an organic mulch on the surface of your topsoil. Instead of getting rid of the freshly fallen leaves during the autumn season, there are many benefits they provide to your garden when used appropriately.

Leaf mulch does a great job in reducing weed growth, acts as an excellent insulator during cold climates, and improves the soil texture when spread around the plants and trees. It can be made using pine needles from evergreens or leaves from deciduous trees.

If you use leaves from deciduous trees, you need to cut them into tiny pieces to allow easy decomposition. Leaf mulch is a perfect choice for vegetable gardens and annual gardens (gardens with plants that you will replant every year).

You can also use leaf mulch to make leaf mold – this is a thick and black substance made from decomposed leaves. It serves as a conditioner for your soil, making it stronger, and can only be ready to be used on your soil after a year.

A leaf mulch is perfect for your vegetable garden flower beds, and you can spread them around shrubs, plants, and trees. You can use any leaf when making leaf mulch, and some will take a longer time to break down than others (beech and oak leaves). Dried leaves will break down faster than fresh leaves.

Pros and Cons of Leaf Mulch


  • Leaf mulch attracts earthworms and good insects that provide nutrients to your plants.
  • They help retain moisture which saves you the stress of watering your plants every time.
  • It protects your plants during cold climates.
  • It is entirely free.
  • Leaf mulch decomposes into nutrients which is suitable for plants.
  • It reduces weed growth.


  • The leaves have to be shredded first, which is a lot of work.
  • It can block sunlight and air because it becomes densely packed together.
  • It does not last as long as wood mulch.
  • Needs to be constantly replaced because it decomposes quickly.

Wood Mulch

Wood mulch is one of the popular types of mulch because it lasts for a long time and has different varieties (wood chips, shredded bark). It does a great job in reducing weed growth and retaining your soil’s moisture. It is also a very cheap option since you get it from tree trimmings that you may not need to pay to purchase most of the time.

This type of mulch is perfect for plants that do not require too much acid because it eventually breaks down into an alkaline form. If your plants need a lot of acids, this might not be the best option for you.

One attractive advantage of wood mulch is that they come in various colors to match your garden or home. If you are the type that likes a color-themed garden, wood mulch will do justice in that aspect.

You can use either cedar or cypress wood to make your wood mulch as they are the best options available. Cedar wood is very good at repelling insects because of its natural oils and will protect your plants from pests. It is also long-lasting.

Cypress wood is another great choice for your wood mulch. It is also good at repelling insects and has an appealing blonde color, making it the costlier option.

Pros and Cons of Wood Mulch


  • It lasts for a long time and this helps reduce your work in the garden.
  • It does not decompose quickly, so it does not need to be replaced regularly.
  • Wood mulch is not densely packed together, so it does not block sunlight or air.
  • It is not expensive.
  • It breaks down into an alkaline form, making it a good choice for alkaline-loving plants.


  • Wood mulch is capable of hurting plants.
  • It is not a good choice for plants that require too much acid.
  • Draws necessary nitrogen from plans when tilled into the ground.
  • It may turn gray after some time.

Differences Between Leaf Mulch and Wood Mulch

As written above, wood mulch takes longer to break down than leaf mulch. It does not need to be replaced regularly, which reduces stress and costs (if you will be purchasing the wood).

Another difference between leaf mulch and wood mulch is that when you spread your leaf mulch over the surface of your soil, it becomes densely packed and can limit the amount of sunlight or air your soil should enjoy. The only good thing about this is that it reduces weed growth.

When spread over the surface of your soil, Wood mulch is not always together like leaf mulch, and this allows your soil to enjoy enough sunlight and air.


Leaf mulch and wood mulch are great options for your garden. If you want a mulch that lasts longer and is stress-free, it is better to go with the wood mulch option. The leaf mulch also comes with advantages but can be a lot of stress.

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