Chipper-Shredder Basics

By National Gardening Association Editors

Yard wastes are the stuff that great compost and mulch is made of. To these, you can add the vegetable wastes from your kitchen. Chipper/shredders not only make materials compost faster, they reduce the volume by up to 10 times.

The chipper/shredder was once a power tool only of interest to people with large properties or serious gardeners who like to cook up a batch of compost now and then.

But now the landfill problem has suburban homeowners looking at chipper/shredders and their evolutionary cousin, the chipper vacuum.

The chipper-vac is the first truly new piece of power equipment to come along in years. Looking something like a lawnmower with a chute attached to it (or a mechanical aardvark), it is used in three ways:

*Pushed around the yard like a lawn mower, it sucks up leaves and chops them into an attached bag. Chopped leaves break down into compost much faster that whole ones.

*The side chute is an entry point for chipping branches of up to three inches in diameter. These chips are good mulch around landscape plants.

*An optional hose attachment sucks leaves and wastes out from under bushes and along walls and hedges where a mower can't be pushed.

A wide range of chipper/shredders is available for different size jobs, ranging from electric units for the small yard to large gasoline-powered ones that will chomp up a brick and still keep ticking.

Most are units on wheels that stand upright to allow material to be fed into the top, although at least one model has a funnel that rests on the ground and allows leaves to be raked in.

With the pressure on America's landfills, chipper/shredders may soon find their place in the garage next to the lawn mower as the power equipment almost everyone needs to own.

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