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Are there better options than a large fuel-hungry gasoline-powered chipper-shredder?

 
                                    
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hey guys, I'm new here, but I've been spending a good deal of time looking through the forum. I'm working on a project intended to be a bit of a testing ground/example project for a camp, the goal is to eventually feed some of the kids there with food from the garden, and also teach kids about sustainability.

so, the issue arises in the fact that we have a lot to do and we need to do it quickly. The area we are working with is very nice, except that its full of blackberries and shrub.  basically its a 2 acer area that was cut down 20 or so years ago and is going through its processes. Yeah i know, were interrupting natures process, but its for a good cause :p.  Were looking at all this blackberry stuff were chopping down and we want to of course return those nutrients to the garden, but blackberries have an annoying way of vegitatively reproducing, so we need to compost them, or at the very least shred them and use them as a bottom layer in sheet mulching. composting 6 foot long canes doesn't seem very practical, and so we have started using the camps huge wood chipper to shred it up. works great, except it cant be very efficient, we have gone through about 7 gallons of gas and were about a quarter of the way through the 2 acres.


were using it out of what we think is the necessity of the moment, but i was wondering how you guys deal with large amounts of unwieldy would be mulch. Is there a more efficient way of shredding? should we just not do it, perhaps use anaerobic black plastic composting and not put it back in as mulch this year? Is it alright using these big machines in the beginning of a project like this in your opinion?

all together we have had about 4-5 piles that are 5' by 5' by 5' of this stuff so far.


not a very good picture, just taken with a phone. Thanks for any advice!
brush.JPG
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Salkeela Bee
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I'd bank it up somewhere and leave it to rot a bit. Stick a black  membrane over it to exclude light and kill off what's likely to grow (shredded weed roots will still regrow) and come back to it in a couple of years or so for some useful mulch.

I did that here.  I have various piles in various stages of decomposition.  One area used for old sods, weeds and small branch clippings 5 or 6 years ago is now a productive bed with very little else done beyond removing the black membrane!

Other areas get dug out and the mostly rotted down material used as the notion takes me at the time.
 
Salkeela Bee
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Other option.... perhaps put it in the bottom of some raised beds.  Cover with 2 or 3 layers of cardboard (old boxes).  The idea is to leave no way for weed shoots to find any light or way up through the card layer.  Then put your compost/manure or other growing medium on top to a good depth. 

The card will prevent the weed shoots coming up,  although it will also prevent roots of what you plant going down during the first year.   You may need to water the whole thing fairly well in the first year to keep what you are growing going.  (I'm in Ireland so minimal watering was required for me!)  The card will act as a water store....

Next year the card will have decomposed (remember to remove all staples and sticky tape or they will still be there!) and you have now a nice deep bed!

Any weeds that do make it up through the card and compost can be cut off easily as they will have expended a load of energy making it up to the surface.  So a couple of cuts back (and some more card plonked over them) and you'll have a weed free bed in no time.   

Edit to add:  Looks like a great project!  A load to be keeping you all busy!
 
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