DIY wood mulch not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also produces a material that is vastly superior to store-bought mulch (and is free!).
If you live in a suburban region, the best way to obtain limbs for grinding is to use the waste you’re pruned away from overgrown trees and shrubs. Sun Joe pole chain saws are excellent tools that make trimming and maintaining your trees easy and simple. Once you’ve finished clearing dead, dangerous or untidy branches from your foliage, gather the debris.
Most homeowners do not typically have the equipment to make wood mulch. Smaller, portable chippers and shredders such as the Sun Joe CJ601E and CJ602E grind branches up to 1.5 inches thick, and are affordable options for light-duty clean up.
For limbs larger in diameter, you’ll need to rent a bigger model, which will require a vehicle with a trailer hitch to bring the chipper home. Grinding up whole tree trunks requires a large industrial chipper, so for bigger jobs consider hiring a landscape or tree trimming company.
Your machine will come with specific instructions, but in summary, you simply feed wood into the hopper and harvest wood chips produced out the other end.
Tips For Chipping Branches
- Chippers are rated according to the maximum diameter they can shred. Be sure you’ve got the right type of shredder for your project
- For uniform mulch, remove leaves and twiggy material so you are just shredding the wood branches
- For maximum recycling, mix in grass clippings and leaves for mulch that will decompose into nutritious compost
- For finer mulch, place the wood chips back into the chipper for a second grinding. When you purchase mulch from a professional yard, you can choose from single-ground, double-ground, and even triple-ground – it’s easy to do this yourself as well.
- Keep a safe distance
- Protect your eyes and hands by wearing safety glasses and work gloves at all times
- Never use your hands or metal tools to push material into the hopper
- Feed in small amounts of debris at a time to avoid jams. If something does get stuck in the hopper, turn off the machine and use a wooden broom or rake handle to work it loose
- Periodically bag or cart away the mulch to keep it from piling up and overheating the machine
- Always turn off or unplug the chipper/shredder when clearing jams
Proper Usage For Wood Mulch
Now that you know how to make wood mulch, it’s important to understand what uses it’s appropriate for.
Wood mulch is a great material to be used a weed killer, becoming especially effective when layered in 3-4 inches.
While it may sound like a quick fix for weeds, be wary of how and where you apply it!
No mulch should ever actually touch a plant; you always want the stem or trunk to be open to the air. Piling mulch on top of a plant instead of around it invites rot and disease to take hold and insects and vermin to decimate your hard work.
Woody materials are high in carbon and cellulose, which means they need nitrogen and time in order to decompose. If you mix fresh wood chips directly into your soil, the materials will bind up much of the soil’s nitrogen and render the spot infertile for at least a season, sometimes two.
A slow decomposition rate also means you should not use wood mulch within 30 feet of your house, as it will breed fungus by trapping moisture that would normally be absorbed, creating a prime breeding ground for termites.
Colored wood mulch that you can find at local hardware stores or nurseries is especially deceptive, as it is not pure wood bark, and takes much, much longer to decompose. This material commonly leaves old layers behind season after season, creating an unhealthy environment for your plants.
Also refrain from using wood mulch around disease-prone plants such as tomatoes and roses for the same reason as stated above. Wood is the perfect incubator for black rot and other devastating fungi.