Saturday, June 8, 2013

Messing with an Old Chipper/Shredder

It finally dried up enough to get some gardening work done. Namely weeding. My poor corn crop is pretty pathetic at this point. Only about half the crop actually came in and the weeds were choking many of them out, that is the ones the dog didn't squash as he ran across the garden or the rabbits didn't eat down to a nub and kill. The pole beans are looking pretty good however and they were in an area I could keep weeded better so I am still pretty positive that my breeding program won't die out.

I admit I used some old seeds on this planting but I went in after the fact and filled in some holes with some newer seed and I still got an abysmal sprout rate on the corn. I really have terrible luck with corn it seems the last few years. I think the combination of cold and wet just didn't lend itself well to the corn sprouting. Corn likes the wet I think but isn't real fond of cold.

No change in the bee department either. The girls are building up nicely but no swarms at all. The bees checking out the traps sure seem to be acting like scout bees but nothing is biting. Just a really odd year but after last years drought I can't blame anything for acting odd at all.  I think everything is still in shock and even with this rain we been getting this year everything is afraid of a repeat from last year.

I did manage to pick up an ancient Craftsman chipper/shredder for what I thought was a pretty good price. I am sure the blades need sharpening on the thing but I messed with it a bit and it did a decent enough job. I really thought some of those branches would put out a bit more chipped and shredded material though. At the rate of material I was getting it would take a lifetime to tear up enough to cover even a fraction of what I would like to mulch up.  So far this year I have hauled about a dozen pick up loads of wood chips and I could still use a few more. Even with the addition of all these fruit trees and such there is no way I could ever reach sustainable wood chip production with my trees and this chipper.

I poked around and finally found a manual for the unit online and it claims to take up to half inch stuff in the big hopper and as high as three inch branches in the little chute. That isn't a problem as anything bigger than two inches I usually break up for kindling to burn anyway and the unit handled everything I put in it. It just turned a huge long limb into what looked to me to be less than a quarter cup of material. Perhaps it will help once I find some kind of bag to use with it. The blowing force coming out of the thing was pretty strong so perhaps I lost a lot of material that way.

The engine is only an old 5 HP Briggs and Stratton but the unit is old enough that it isn't burdened down with all the BS safety and EPA stuff so it kicks out some power which was one of the main reason I jumped on it. I always prefer the older stuff when I can find it.

So attempting to add wood chipped mulch to my self sustainable operation is not meeting with the greatest of success yet. I have been kicking around the idea of setting up a full Eden project type affair for some of my row crops to test but I am not going to attempt it until I can figure out, or more importantly afford the machinery to make the project self sustainable. A unit like I picked up today will run over 500 bucks new and a unit like those power line crews use is well into the multiple thousand dollar range. I have heard some tractor/pto models are out there but never seen one used and they are pretty pricey as well new.

Wood chips just may not be in the sustainable cards at least for me. It may be possible from what I have seen to keep up with or at least slow down the overall decline in a wood chip cover with this unit however. Which would mean establishing the beds now and just hoping that this unit could keep the whole thing operational on a long term basis.

It will certainly take some more testing.

As I suspected the heavy wood chip mulch I have been using around the raised beds and wood pile is also doing very little to deter the morning glory or other bindweed varieties from coming up. It has been doing a good job on the pigweed however and it allows much greater pull on the bind weed root stems so it does set it back further after weeding.  All in all I would have to hand weed the morning glory anyway and it is much easier to spot coming up through the wood chips that's for sure. It also doesn't seem to do much to hamper the fescue creeping roots. At least I think it is fescue.

Nothing is perfect I guess.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. PP,

    Ever consider using bill board signs to help prevent weeds? Patrice over at Rural Revolution used bill board banners (she obtained them free) in her garden this year and it apparently has made a difference.

    Hey have you found any red sparkles in your wood chips? I'm looking for my ruby red shoes and I figured you chopped them up with your wood chipper :P LOL.......

    1. Sandy - Ya know in the original story she wore silver slippers.

      I saw her post about using that. She used it under her beds and then filled them up with dirt. My weeding is in my large garden which I still till and use for large row crops.

      Most of my issues with weed control garden concepts are scale really. What works for small scale generally doesn't convert to the size you would actually need if you attempt to get all your produce from a garden.

      Or so it seems to me.

  2. PP,

    Don't worry the corn, here its is a little sad, but starting to grow. Maybe you could start a compost pile with your wood chips and grass cuttings for next year?? We got back up to 71 today. Maybe we will get summer after all.

    1. Rob - Ya what I am going to ave to do really is wait until I have a good sized pile of limbs and then shred em up. I need to build a location where I can do it that won't scatter the shredded material as bad as well.

      It was in the upper 70's to low 80's here today.

  3. I am not sure I am following the logistics, but I find mulch by itself to be of limited value. The newspaper or cardboard layer under the mulch is the big add on.

    1. Russ - The four inches or so of wood chips I use in between my raised beds is almost weed proof except for the underground vine varieties. The deep mulch keeps almost everything from breaking through but the vine/rooters get their energy from outside the mulch layer, sometimes from many yards away, so generally they cannot be contained. What happens if you don't hunt down the vine-rooters is they break the covering open and allow the other weeds to get a foot hold as well.

      The newspaper and cardboard do help a lot but are usually reduced to dirt themselves within a year in our wet climate. I could rake back the chips and re-apply the newspaper but that would have to be maintenance time added to the whole. Right now simply hand pulling the bindweed types allows the greatest time saving factor for our local needs. I am sure other locations would vary.

      About every four years now I am removing some two or more inches of dirt in between my raised beds as the level rises with decomposed chips. Soem nice damned dirt under there too.


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