DIY Mulch from a Small Wood Chipper

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A small wood chipper is a brilliant investment if you want to kill these two birds with one stone: Clean up those old branches and sticks, and MAKE FREE DIY MULCH!

After pruning back a lot of our yard we were left with a big ol’ stack of dead tree limbs and sucker plants. We were going to bundle these and put them out with the trash. We were also going to invest in some mulch for my new garden items. All of a sudden it occurred to me that I could probably buy a machine to mulch my own sticks. Recycling my yard scraps and going more green? BEAUTIFUL!

I am one of those people who really enjoy shredding things in my paper shredder, so I figure this is just a large, paper shredder for sticks and tree limbs – and serves a good purpose because the output creates usable nutrients to put back into the soil. It was this realization that made me super excited to purchase a chipper/shredder/mulcher.

So, I began my research on buying the best one (well, best one that wasn’t going to break the bank) for home use.

But alas, the reviews for most of the home DIY wood chippers were kind of discouraging. They were hit or miss with people either loving it or hating it – and claiming it broke upon first use.

So I did what any stubborn person determined to try something new does – I bought one anyway, of course.

And you know what – I LOVE IT!

It actually took me a bit to get the hang of it and like it. I didn’t “get it” at first and was almost disappointed in the purchase – silently cursing that all those bad reviews might have been right.

When I first turned it on, I was kind of shoving small pieces in – and while it can take those with no problems – just doing it that way would take all day long to get any output at all. I was frustrated with how long the little pieces were taking, and that I had to push these down into the machine with the paddle. But then, I started to get the hang of it and realized you shouldn’t have to push the sticks in, as long as you use a long stick and put it in with the branches going upwards (like the natural direction a tree grows in) the machine does most of the work for you by sucking the branch in by itself.

Tip: to get this to work right, don’t chop your pieces up too small – but do chop off any stray straggly branches that curve off excessively.

If you have a very long (like 6 feet), straight branch it will just suck it in and destroy it in mere seconds – that’s where it excels.

That’s when things get fun. That’s when you will hear that noise like “nnnnnneeeeeeerrrrr” and it will just explode out wood chips like – well, like a wood chipper I guess. 😀 The only other reference I can think of is fairly disgusting, so I will spare you those visuals.

What You Should Know Before Purchasing

  • Let’s set your expectations so they are grounded in reality (boo, not as much fun). Of course in my mind I had this fantasy of making SO MUCH MULCH that we could just put it on every tree in the yard. The truth is, you won’t make a ton of mulch from this – it’s great to cover a few garden items with a few bags of chips, but it won’t replace the wood chip mulch typically needed to cover the base of trees (unless you have a LOT of branches to chip that meet the requirements – under 1 5/8″.) Sorry to be a dream killer.
  • You can’t do big branches over 1 5/8″ – so large logs won’t go in – don’t even try, and you can’t get them into the slot anyway. You will know what you can put in based on the hole size at the top slot.
  • If you have branches that have offshoots going in all crazy directions, clip those off so that they don’t cause issues with the chipper sucking in the branch. The main pieces should be fairly straight to go down easily.
  • The dry wood turns into sawdust basically, the more wet wood will create larger pieces – I find the combination of dry and more wet wood makes the best chipped output mixture. Also bear in mind, do NOT use fresh wood that is still green – it needs to dry out for a few days otherwise it can become gummy in the shredder and ruin the mechanism/blades.
Mulch in Planter

An example of some of the mulch produced for a container

If the majority of your tree clippings produce relatively thin and straight branches, and you have a lot of these, you should be VERY happy investing in this machine. If your yard just doesn’t lend itself to those smaller and straighter branches, this will probably be a waste of money for you.

Warnings

  • Read and adhere to all of the safety requirements that are stated in your user manual. I shouldn’t have to tell you that a wood chipper can cause severe damage to you if used incorrectly – but we’re talking about the potential for a very dangerous injury if you do not follow the warnings. Dangerous, like, limbs off, and possible death. No joke, use CAUTION.
  • Use the right extension cord that is specified in your manual. Not doing this can cause your motor to burn out or your wires to catch on fire.
  • Read the user manual carefully before you use your machine. There were instructions for mine that I’m guessing some others don’t listen to – which is probably why some reviews complained about the machine breaking immediately. I used mine for several hours and had no issues. It was sucking down wood and chipping like a pro just as strong at the end as it was in the beginning. The advice will include what you should and should not put into the machine, including wet wood. Follow instructions if you want this to last and to use it safely.
  • Wear goggles to protect your eyes. This is a serious piece of machinery that can severely injure you! Don’t mess around – I had plenty of shrapnel fly at my face as I placed items into this and I was glad I wore protection, both on my eyes and mouth.
  • Wear a mask for your mouth/nose – there is a lot of dust and pollen that is generated while using this, as well as bits and pieces of wood flying back at you.
  • Keep animals and children away from this machine.
  • You may want earplugs – it isn’t terribly loud, maybe sounds like a shop-vac – but with prolonged use it can have adverse effects on your ears.

Which Chipper to Buy?

  • Price All of the ones I was looking at ran around $150.00 or so. I didn’t want this to be a huge investment, especially if it didn’t work that well. As my husband lectured me before I bought this, buying mulch piles is relatively inexpensive, so I definitely didn’t want to spend 10 times more on this mulcher since he was convinced it wouldn’t create all the mulch we would need anyway – and don’t tell him this, but he was right about that.
  • Reviews I can only speak for the one I purchased, but it seemed like all of the ones in this price range are roughly the same, except for the ones getting extremely bad reviews. Do a search like this one on Amazon for the best rated and lowest priced chippers.

I would advise you to do what I did, which was read the reviews thoroughly for each product before choosing.

Before You Use Your New Wood Chipper

  • Place a lawn and leaf bag underneath your chipper to collect the chips/mulch
  • Definitely use gloves in addition to the goggles, face mask, and ear protection. I wasn’t using these and the vibration of the branch hurt my hand really bad. I also ended up spiking my hand with a rose bush branch when the thorn shook into my hand on the way down.
  • Assemble your base and make sure the top sits snug on top of the base, otherwise you risk it coming off when it vibrates, which it does pretty strongly.

Safety Tools

How To Use It

  1. Assemble the base following the user manual instructions to put it together – it is easy (this took me about 10 minutes to do).
  2. Attach the main unit to the base, ensuring that the connection is secure.
  3. Read and follow all safety and use instructions.
  4. Wheel your mulcher to the area that you want to use it at – making sure the extension cord you use is appropriate for the voltage level and distance you need.
  5. Plug your mulcher cord into the extension cord.
  6. Place a trash bag or small cardboard box underneath the mulcher to collect the chips that it creates.
  7. Wear protective gear – eye-wear, mask, gloves, earplugs.
  8. Turn your mulcher on using the power button.
  9. Load sticks into the mulcher with the branches towards the top (like an arrow pointing at the mulcher) so that they naturally get sucked down the right way.
  10. At the end of your mulching session, add a few dry branches at the end to keep the blades clean and sharp.
  11. Clean and store your machine when you are done as the instructions say to do (light soap and water most likely to get dust off).

Why Use Mulch?

There are so many benefits to adding mulch to your garden and to your yard and trees.

Some of these garden benefits include:

  • Soil Nutrients: Organic mulch (mulch made from plants/trees/nature) will add much needed nutrients to your existing soil, replenishing some of what gets depleted as the plants pull nutrients from the soil as they grow.
  • Water Retention: Mulch will help keep your garden moist as it locks in a good amount of water and typically will keep the ground underneath slightly wet, even throughout extremely hot temperatures. This will help both in your water bills being lowered and with your plants from dehydrating during the warmer months.
  • Weather Protection: Mulch will help protect your plants and trees by being an insulator for both hot and cold extremes. When temperatures rise in the summer, mulch will protect the ground it sits on top of from becoming too hot and dry – plus it retains some of the water more than dirt does by itself. In the winter, mulch is also a great protection for excessively cold and freezing temperatures as it keeps the ground warmer than it is naturally – like a blanket.
  • Weeds: Mulch is a natural covering that prevents a majority of weeds from growing – it probably won’t keep them all away, but it will definitely help!
  • Pests & Bugs: Mulch can help prevent animals and unwanted bugs from getting into the dirt around your veggies and flower gardens – but won’t deter the good bio-organisms like worms and other beneficial bugs from doing what they need to do in your soil.
  • Keeps Plants off the Ground: This can prevent vegetables and the like from getting diseases from touching the soil directly.
  • Aesthetics: Mulch looks pretty as it is a natural substance and is more attractive than bare dirt or landscape fabric.

With all this in mind, I hope you think about using mulch in your garden – if not your own, you can find it from any landscape supply.

Videos

Part 1 Video: Here is my video on the assembly process and at the end is how to use it.

DIY Home Wood Chipper, Mulcher, Shredder part 1

Assembly of and use of my Home Wood Chipper

Part 2 Video: Here is a video on me mulching and applying the mulch to the garden.

DIY Home Wood Chipper, Mulcher, Shredder part 2

Watch me make and use mulch!

If you have questions or comments – please share below!

 

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