Monday, October 20, 2008

Chipping Mulch and Compost Starter

This is me, having vanquished two mighty piles of pruned bushes and trees. I kept the piles separated into brown for mulch, and green for compost.

Here are the same piles pre-chipping. The brown is mostly dead-headed sage and other natives. The green is mostly olive suckers with some beans and squash that recently gave up the ghost.

We have a big yard and desparately need both compose and mulch. We can never have enough of either. The mulch gets spread wherever the ground is showing through, to hold in moisture and to disuade weeds. The compost is needed to extend and feed our vegetable beds.

This is what the green stuff looks like up close. It feels moist and is probably about 50/50 leaves and sticks.

The old pile is so well cooked that there is little in it that resembles plant material except for the last two weeks worth of kitchen scraps which haven't been completely digested. I pulled those out as I turned the pile, completely moving the whole thing about three feet (btw: lots of crawley backs).

Fresh kitchen scaps, the partialy decomposed scraps from the older pile and a handful or two of completed compost were added in layers to the chipped green material. The new pile is begun. Now the challenge is to see how long I can keep it hot by adding fresh green stuff and kitchen scraps.

Previously on Ramshackle Solid:
Starting a New Compost Pile
Feeding the Compost Pile
Compost Pile Update
Grub Mystery Solved


  1. Eric, thanks for the blog. Here's my question: you own a chipper? Is that worthwhile? How? I have tons and tons of woody waste (lots of trees and wind), and green stuff, and without access to such things, have for the time being settled on the slow process of simply piling them into groups to be covered, slowly, by compostable materials. Looking for better options, but *owning* a chipper seems like a big move. Thanks

  2. Erik,

    Agreed - the chipper is a big move - probably not for everyone. For us it makes sense. Here's why:

    We have about 10 or 12 olive trees that grow like weeds and need regular trimming. The green pile in the second picture is from the accumulation of just the suckers that sprout from the bottom of each tree. They need to be trimmed from the trees every 4-6 months. No branch trimming in this batch. Left alone it simply wouldn't decompose quickly enough - we'd eventually be buried by olive trimmings alone. Add to that the sage, pomegranates, toyons... you get the picture. The chipper helps us keep the place tidy-ish.

    I don't like to use the chipper but see it as a necessary minor evil at this point. We would need to send some green stuff to the dump otherwise. I run it for about an hour a month - much less than a I would need to run a mower if we had a lawn. It turns the green stuff into compost really fast. In 3 months the green compost pile pictured will be turned to into dirt (as was the one on the left which was started in July). The brown trimmings keep the rest of the dirt in the yard covered in a fairly attractive mulch which is really good for our natives. I almost never chip fallen leaves.We just let those lay or rake them off the paths.

    If you do decide to get a chipper, I suggest buying a powerful model. I think ours is 4hp. I have heard of folks buying small electric chippers that end up being much more trouble than they are worth. We also bought Patriot chipper used at a garage sale for a steal (I think it was $40) Buying used is a good idea so that way if you don't like it you'll probably be able to sell it for a similar amount - not much risk.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!

  3. Eric, thanks for this response; a used chipper sounds positively compelling - we get lots and lots of woody waste, like I said, and have that for mulch (rather than the occasional bonfire) would be great, and please my neighbors to no freaking end. Cheers!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.