Turn garden waste into mulch
CHIPPERS & SHREDDERS Big properties with large shrubs or trees can produce useful amounts of trimmings to process to mulch, but decent chippers are expensive and a large pile of vegetation produces a surprisingly small pile of mulch…
If you live near a municipal garden-waste facility, it would be most cost-effective to take waste there for processing and return with a load of mulch. But for plattelanders and the self-sufficient, a chipper or shredder is a sound investment.
For really big properties, smaller petrolpowered trolley-mounted commercial chippers by local companies such as Tomcat Chippers or Ritlee, or imports like ECHO Bear Cat make sense but start at about R30 000. Even the smallest of these models can deal with branches as thick as a man’s forearm with ease, and process a heap the height of an adult in under an hour. If you add bells and whistles like hydraulic feed rollers, the costs quickly reach new-car prices.
For suburban gardens, electric-powered shredders and chippers are sensible, and are quieter and more energy-efficient. Viking is one of the most reputable electricchipper brands widely available in SA. Its larger models can process branches up to 40mm thick, have reasonable feed chutes and processing speed, and produce lovely fine mulch. Expect to pay between R6 000 and R20 000, depending on your needs. The smallest electric models, starting around R3 000, are really only useful in tiny gardens, and the narrow, safety-oriented feed chutes and blade designs make processing more than a small wheelbarrow load a slow and frustrating experience.
Even the smallest, least powerful chipper is noisy, and can spit flying debris or nick fingers and hands as fast as softwood. Always protect your eyes and preferably your ears too, and never put your hands anywhere inside feed chutes or near working parts. This may seem obvious, but when a branch jams it’s too easy to try shove it in with your hand without thinking.
The smallest chippers and shredders might be frustrating to use but it’s surprising what you can do with only a pair of secateurs. I just roughly cut up and drop most of my regular snipping, trimming and deadheading on the spot. In more hidden spots I just throw down whole leafy trimmings as mulch around bigger trees.
Used chicken bedding makes for excellent mulch but shouldn’t be applied freshly near vegetables. Even seed-laden weeds can be used as rough mulch if you confine them to one or two small areas so that the weeds that do come up can be dealt with easily.
The Viking GE103 is one of several electricpowered chipper options suited to suburban gardens.