Green waste gets the chop

by Andy Bryenton

On the lifestyle block, as on the working farm, green waste disposal is a constant chore. There’s always some form of foliage to prune back, and when it comes to the limbs of larger trees, this often means it’s time to head to the hire centre for a wood chipper.

If the workload is becoming too heavy to justify trips back and forth, or if there’s a large area to be pruned back or disposed of, having all that chipped wood to lay in garden beds can kill two birds with one stone.

Which brings us to the point of actually owning one of the handy little machines permanently. If you have an extensive treescape or shelterbelts, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a wood chipper for future chores. Prices are more reasonable than ever as the market fills up with imports, but there are some pro tips which should not be overlooked when buying a wood chipper for your lifestyle block or small farm. We asked a professional landscape maintenance operator what to look out for to avoid the lemons and pups.

The first thing to measure is the size of the jobs you’re likely to undertake. Only mulching down small shrubs and softer stuff?

A unit under 10 horsepower will do fine. For now, electric models lack the punch of petrol or diesel, so look for a unit with a reputable brand of motor.

This becomes even more important when looking at models apt to chomp through branches which measure more than about 5cm thick, or about half the width of your hand. For these, a bigger beefier engine is needed, maybe even diesel if we’re talking wrist-thick boughs and branches. Look for engine names you’ve heard of — you may find units powered by Briggs and Stratton, Honda or even Hyundai engines. Check the details and ask about the quality of the bearings, and if the motor is a modern OHV or overhead valve type. These will last longer and work stronger. It’s OK if you haven’t heard of the engineering firm who built the other parts of the chipper, but if you haven’t heard of the engine manufacturer, really quiz the seller on its quality. Parts and servicing will be a snap for well-known brand engines too.

When it comes to the working parts of the chipper, make sure you buy a self — feeding model. This is both easier and safer than having to force each load through the chute. As a general rule, the more blades are at work at the ‘business end’ of the machine the better, so look for a unit with high quality blades and plenty of them. Some units now offer electric start, but a pull cord action is fine on smaller models, so long as it’s reliable and easy to use. If you pick a winner, pruning chores will be a breeze, and there’ll be less need for burn offs and trips to the dump!