Mulching machines come in various shapes and sizes and can have very different characteristics. Smaller ones will only mulch leaves, while bigger models may also chip twigs, some will have blades while others will only have string lines. On this page, you will find information on mulching machines, chipping machines, as well as garden equipment that combine both functions.
Why use mulching machines
Mulching machines can be a big help in the garden, as well as be an environmentally friendly way to get rid of plant litter, such as fallen leaves, needles, twigs and acorns. They are especially handy in the fall, as they can turn an average of ten bags of fallen leaves into a single bag of leaf mulch. For information on fall lawn care, see our page on the subject.
Here is a list of reasons for using mulching machines:
- They make yard cleanup easier.
- They can turn litterfall into nutrient rich mulch and wood chips that can be used as is on lawns and in flower beds.
- The mulch and wood chips they make can be used to make compost.
- Used as is or as compost, mulch and wood chips are good for water conservation and weed control, and against soil erosion. As they decompose, they are good for the soil’s structure and permeability, and they enhance the soil’s bioactivity. They provide food for natural garden allies, such as microorganisms and earth worms.
- Mulch can be used to protect plants from the cold in winter.
- If you choose to use your mulched litterfall, then you don’t have to make trips to wherever you have to go to get rid of it. And if you choose not to use it, then at least you don’t have to make as many trips, since mulched plant litter takes about ten times less space.
Things to consider when choosing mulching machines
Before you run to your local garden shop to buy a mulching machine, there are a few things you have to consider:
- What do you need exactly?
- Will you only need to mulch fallen leaves, or will you also have to get rid of twigs and acorns? If you need to mulch leaves and chip branches and twigs, you will need a machine that can mulch and chip. In this case, pay attention to the maximum branch diameter the machine can chip.
- What is the size of the area you will need to cover? Mulching machines that you need to cary on your shoulder or back may work fine, but they are more tiresome than push style machines (such as push mulching lawn mowers). If you have a relatively small area to cover, have only dead leaves to mulch, and if you plan to leave the mulched leaves on your lawn, then a simple mulching lawn mower may do the trick.
- Do you want a machine that runs on gas or electricity? Electricity is more earth friendly, but more powerful models often have gas motors.
- Safety considerations are also important, especially if children are likely to be in the picture.
What are the different types of mulching machines
There are many types of mulching machines available on the market today. They go from the simple mulching lawn mower, to the hand-held type shredder vacuum, to the leaf shredder and wood chipper and the push style chipper shredder vacuum.
Simple mulchers and shredders
Simple mulchers and shredders can typically only chop up leaves, preferably dry dead leaves.
- Mulching lawn mowers: Many lawn mowers are able to mulch dry, dead leaves. If this option is right for you, it is certainly the cheapest and easiest way to turn plant litter into mulch. You preferably need to wait for the leaves to be dry. Then, you simply need to mulch your leaves just as you would mow your lawn. If the layer of dead leaves is thick, do two passes and adjust the mower’s cutting height between each pass.
- Mulchers and shredders: There are a number of machines on the market that are designed especially to mulch and shred dead leaves. You would typically use these machines to shred and bag dead leaves. Most models run on electricity and use a string line to shred the leaves.
Vacuum type leaf shredders and chippers
Unlike leaf blowers, these machine suck up dead leaves and twigs, shred them and collect them in a bag. For more on this subject, have a look at our page on lawn vacs.
- Portable models: You typically carry these mulching machines on a shoulder or on your back. Like the simple mulchers and shredders mentioned above, these machines are used to chop up leaves, preferably dry dead leaves. Unlike mulching lawn mowers, these can be used in flower beds and in more difficult locations. And unlike the mulchers and shredders spoken about in the above section, these won’t have you racking and picking up leaves.
- Push models: These machines ressemble mulching lawn mowers, but they are specifically designed to mulch leaves and chip twigs. They are typically more powerful than portable machines. Some are strong enough to chip small branches.
More heavy duty shredders and chippers
There are also many mulching machines on the market that can be used to mulch leaves as well as chip bigger branches. Note that there are chippers that cannot be used to mulch leaves, so if you plan to use your new equipment to mulch and chip, be sure to get the right machine.
Which mulching machine to choose
Many manufacturers offer many different mulcher, shredder and chipper models. If you browse the Internet or go out shopping you will find names such as DuroStar, Echo, Flowtron, Harbor Freight, Patriot, Stihl, Troy-Bilt, Yard Force and others. First make sure that you know what you need, then get as much information as possible on potential choices, and finally look for additional information on sites such as Consumer Reports or Which, for instance.
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