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…

go! Platteland - - 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.

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