Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Taming that heap of mulch

After the spectacular growth that our gardens have made over this season there will be pruning lots of pruning and a correspondingly large heap of branches, twigs and leaves. Some people are happy to shove all this into their green waste bin and let council deal with it, but others will eye the heap happily, muttering to themselves organic matter!

As we all know, the very best soil conditioner is decayed organic matter. If you leave your heap in a corner, perhaps covered with a tarp, it will rot eventually. Mulchers will reduce all those branches to smallish bits, so the heap takes up less room and breaks down quickly.

If your garden is small, consider an electric mulcher. They are much quieter to operate, so you wont annoy the neighbours, but they do have limitations. They wont take anything over about 2.5cm thick and usually spray mulch everywhere. They also tend to jam if fed fibrous materials like palm leaves or tree-fern fronds. On most models, clearing a blockage or jam is a tedious process, so if you have lots of this sort of material you might be happier with a bigger petrol machine.

These start at around 3.5 horsepower and go upwards to about 11hp. Thats a big, powerful machine and is expensive too. Only invest in one of these if you have a large shrubby garden (or acreage) that is going to produce a lot of branches all year. If its likely that you will be dealing with a big heap of cuttings once or twice a year, consider hiring a big machine for half a day now and again. Its a lot cheaper.

Always check the safety instructions and read the manual before you start, and wear the recommended safety gear. Plenty of people have mulcher accidents each year dont be one of them.


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