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Looking for better ways of chopping it all up (smaller stuff)  RSS feed

 
Gus Mccologie
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Every year, I toy with the idea of getting a chipper/shredder. Looking for any input; what you use, what you like, what you hate. Have used a few I've borrowed to test- haven't really liked any. One was a proper chipper with a side chute for small things, others leaf mower style, again with a side chute for sticks.
I really don't want to process anything bigger than an inch, and small weedy (or even dry stuff) seems to get sucked through and not cut up and catches and needs to be shut off to clean out constantly.
My other complaint is that the hoppers are usually small and long- I assume for safety, and low which is wearing on the back after a while. Plus I'd like to feed in more than two or three perfect sticks at a time...
I have a set up now with an elevated old lawnmower which works great, but is loud, uses a LOT of gas ($, fumes) and is cumbersome to move around because I have to move all the cement blocks and boards that make up the base. Also it kicks up a huge amount of dust and I wheeze for days after I use it for any extended periods.
Does anyone use an electric leaf shredder type for small sticks, woody weed stems or green weeds that they would recommend?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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I'm really partial to lawnmowers. I got a cheap Chinese chipper a while back, and after maybe 50 hours of use, the blades were so dull they wouldn't chip hot butter. The reason I like lawnmowers is that they have wheels. You don't have to traipse around picking up brush to feed to the chipper, the lawnmower just rolls over it, sucks it up and shreds it. If anything is too big for the lawnmower to shred, then those branches just get buried in a hugelbed. Lawnmowers also make great yard vacuums, sucking up leaves in the fall and I can empty the bag where the mulch is needed.

A few weeks ago, I finally decided that the old lawnmower had given up the ghost and it was time to buy a new one. Buying one at the end of summer is a good way to get one on sale, since lawn cutting season is coming to an end. But not leaf vacuuming season! I got a good deal on a nice mower that even has a self-propelling feature. Another surprise that I got from my new mower is that it uses a lot less gas than the old one with the carburized cylinder.

Sure, lawnmowers kick out a lot of dust. But I can wear a dust mask while I'm pushing it.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Many say the ones from harbor freight are great for shredding leaves, but you really need more power for anything bigger. But that plus renting a big one now and then is a good option.

I bought a decent sized one off craigslist. It paid for itself by making mulch for paths and shredding cardboard for worn beds.
 
Tim Malacarne
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Location: South central Illinois, USA
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If you have the room, and your neighbors and you can stand it, I'd say just piling the stuff and letting it rot is your best bet. That's what I do... It's cheap, easy, and effective. Uses zero fuel... I like the hot composting method, and sometimes will use a 6' rotary mower on a tractor to shred up the big stuff. Otherwise, it's the rotting for me.......
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I'd have to agree with the "cheap Chinese chippers" - I inherited one from a friend when she moved to New Zealand and barely used it due to dull blades. Got replacement blades but they didn't last much longer.

It's my understanding that there are chippers for woody, larger, drier stuff and shredders (basically upside down weed whackers) for smaller, leafier, wetter stuff. What processes one, doesn't do a great job on the other and vice versa. So essentially you need one of each.

Because I have a small property, I basically cut up all my stuff by hand. Living in an arid region, I can't leave my large items on top of the soil and expect them to rot any time in the near future - we just don't have that kind of moisture in the air. It has to be buried. I have a special long term compost area in a back corner where I toss problematic materials that will take longer to break down. I cover them with soil and water it every so often. It's less than ideal but the best option for me right now.
 
Gus Mccologie
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Thanks everyone...
For all of the above, I guess that's why I've stuck with my old lawn mower rig.
Originally it was sited to disassemble and make into a unit to mulch/chop but it has a bag attachment and that is just too useful in autumn getting that perfect green/brown ratio. It's the only time my compost really "works" with any heat.
I do do a lot of hand cutting things into foot long pieces throughout the year and piling.
The dream is smaller/neater, more efficient compost areas, and getting something with a more unified particle size to use to top dress as a thin mulch during the growing season, then just turning it under. There is a tremendous amount of material I could process that grows up wild because it's overwhelming in its volume and I would need a composting yard to pile it all in if it were left whole as is. It would be nice to have something to use that would act as a bit of a motivator.
Maybe I just want a new toy. And I like the idea of electric, but it really is impractical to run a 200 foot cord out to the garden.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have a really good set of loppers that were made in Switzerland. ($10 at a yard sale) When I cut down branches, I drag them to a good spot and lop off all branches up to about 1 1/2 inch diameter. The big stuff becomes firewood and sometimes I lop out some firewood from the little branches. What is left is a tangle of small branches and leaves. They are easily reduced with a lawnmower.

I can lop stuff much faster than I was able to feed them through a 5hp Bear Cat chipper, which I got rid of. Using a lawnmower is much more labor efficient, since individual bits don't have to be picked up. Five minutes with a lawnmower equals about half an hour of feeding the chipper. I process wood faster than with the noise machine, and it's a serious workout for the shoulders and pecs. This method forces me to produce more firewood, since lawnmowers don't do well with large diameter wood.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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We have a shredder rather than a chipper (flailing arms type thing).

I'm never sure if it is worth the effort as pretty much anything that can be usefully shredder would also pretty much compost if left in a heap for long enough. Shredding does speed up the process though, and you can get a good hot compost going quickly.

Personally I'm of the - least expended effort - school rather than in for turning heap over and worrying about quick composting. I don't care if it takes a year or more, and any large sticks that don't break down just get fished out at the end and chucked in to the bottom of the next heap.

If I were to upgrade though that would be another matter - I love having woodchips around and have been mulching some areas heavily with good results. We have plenty of woody material that currently gets burned (either in the stove or a couple of times per year in a bonfire). To be able to chip wood at a decent rate and with reasonable durability needs a fairly hefty machine with a chunky price tag, however.
 
james Apodaca
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It's a hard choice.. I would say look at the ultimate return on investment. Is it worth it in the end?

If I had an operation with a volume like this?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWKTXL9Jp9Y
I would say; yes, definitely.

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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His method is much more labor and energy intensive than mine. I would dump those bags into and onto hugelkultur beds and wait. No further action is needed, Nature will accomplish everything that the shredder would do. I had a far superior machine which I found to be inadequate. I used broad leaf maple leaves as animal bedding. They trample it and mix it with fertilizer for free.

This thread is a rehash of this one. http://www.permies.com/t/28389/mulch/Paul-hates-Wood-Chippers Check it out. A guy named Dale has had experience with various models and means of chipping.
 
james Apodaca
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Dale, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

I dump my leaves and grass clippings in standing welded wire columns, with home grown red wigglers, and let them decay and whatever is left over goes into my garden beds as un-chopped mulch.

The only thing I use gasoline for is to trim the yard to code once a month as I stopped tilling, and started mulching with whatever falls to the ground, shortly after discovering these forums. I couldn't justify the expense of a leaf shredder, or the gasoline to run it, even if I had the money. I was only providing supplemental material food for thought given the OP's request.

I use the columns for one purpose; seed starting. For some reason I suck, reeeeaaaally bad, at starting seeds in pots/trays. The standing columns of leaf mould with soaker hoses alleviates my inability to germinate in pots. They work remarkably well for potatoes as well. I'm starting to find they are much better than trying to grow in the sandy Central Florida soil. Since anything I put on the ground gets flooded out and carried away in the rainy season. If I owned my property I would install raised hugel beds but I don't and my landlord probably wouldn't appreciate them since homeowners fear termites, mold and mildew around here more than the plague.

However, I can't deny that Mr. Huges' operation is performing a whole heck of a lot better than mine and is a positive argument for the shredding of leaves. His posts/pictures on GardenWeb are very impressive.
 
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