DIY Basics: Essential Guide to Mulchers

Once all your bushes and trees have been pruned to perfection, you’ll need to do something about all the material you’ve trimmed off. 

Essential Guide to Mulchers

Choose the right mulcher to deal with your garden trimmings

Once all your bushes and trees have been pruned to perfection, you’ll need to do something about all the material you’ve trimmed off. 

A mulcher, also called a shredder or chipper, is an invaluable garden accessory that converts the waste from pruning into a useful resource. 

If you only undertake a major pruning mission once or twice a year, or if you are faced with a one-off task such as cutting a damaged branch from a large tree, hiring a heavy-duty chipper might be the best option. 

But if you find yourself with mountains of prunings every fortnight during the warmer months, you might find they’re just too much for the compost heap.

This is where a tool that transforms them into fine mulch will probably be a worthwhile addition to your power tool collection.

TIP While most mulchers handle branches quite well, only the higher-end models are really effective at shredding finer material such as leaf litter.

PETROL MULCHERS or chippers with a powerful four-stroke engine might be the better choice for offcuts from more ambitious pruning. These are similar to the industrial machines used by arborists and professional tree fellers to create a truckload of mulch at a time.

ELECTRIC MULCHERS or shredders are likely to be the best option unless you have a large property and regularly need to prune and maintain large trees. These are easy to operate, require virtually no maintenance,v and can easily chew through branches of up to 35mm in diameter.

Protective layering 

In most cases, covering areas of bare soil with a layer of organic mulch greatly simplifies your gardening chores. 

Mulch reduces water loss from the soil, slowing evaporation and improving water absorption when it rains or when you use a sprinkler. 

It slows weed growth while returning nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.

Mulch also protects plant roots from extremes of hot and cold weather, and evens out dramatic fluctuations in temperature. It can also add colour and texture, which is a big improvement for areas of plain soil.

protective layering, mulch, handyman magazine,
Mulch reduces water loss from the soil, slowing evaporation and improving water absorption when it rains or when you use a sprinkler

Make the most of mulch 

The best time to apply mulch is in spring, then keep it topped up throughout the year. 

The key is to avoid leaving any soil bare, so always mulch around new plantings straight away.

Before mulching, dig out all traces of perennial weeds and water the garden beds before and after applying the mulch. 

Spread your shredded prunings over the soil about 75 to 100mm deep, but avoid mulching right up to stems or trunks as it may cause them to rot.

Types of mulch 

Trimmings 

Trimmings such as flowers and foliage should be shredded first. Take care not to use organic material that might have been sprayed with chemicals.
 

trimmings, handyman magazine,

Leaf litter

Leaf litter mixed with small shredded branches from your pruning makes excellent mulch. Avoid using this type in bushfire-prone areas because it can be highly flammable.
 

leaf litter, handyman magazine,

Conifer offcuts 

Conifer offcuts  make a good wind-resistant mulch that helps lower the pH of the soil, making it particularly hospitable to azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.
 

conifer offcuts, handyman magazine,

Tree bark 

Tree bark and woodchip from larger branches drains well and its acidity makes it good for mulching around strawberries. As a general rule, don’t use it on a vegetable garden.
 

tree bark, handyman magazine,

Lucerne hay 

Lucerne hay breaks down over time to feed the soil, which means you will have to keep it topped up. Use it around roses to help repel black spot. 

TIP Chop it up for easier spreading.

lucerne hay, handyman magazine,

Pebble mulch 

Pebble mulch is worth mentioning as a complement to the organic material. It works well around trailing vegies such as pumpkins because it helps prevent rotting.    
 

pebble mulch, handyman magazine,

Vote It Up: 
Essential Guide to Mulchers

See also

Build A Birdhouse

This plywood birdhouse can be customised to any shape or size

This birdhouse is simply a box with a bird-shaped lid turned on its side.  Made from plywood, the lid is attached with a...
5 Extraordinary Uses For Clothes Pegs

Five ways to use clothes pegs 

Clothes pegs come in very handy during gardening and DIY. Here are five different ways you can use them to make your life easier...
Protect Garden Tools - Image: istock
Sponsored article Garden tools like shovels, trowels and forks see a lot of wear and tear, with constant digging in the soil...
How To Make Organic Aphid Spray
Aphids can be incredibly destructive pests in the garden, but with this DIY organic spray, you can deter them from attacking your...
How To Build A Timber Garden Planter
Build a self-watering raised bed from treated pine to grow salad greens.  Everyone loves to grow fresh salad greens, tomatoes...
An Urban Garden Oasis

Living in the city does not need to mean living without a garden 

On a global scale, different climates produce different gardens. From Australia to America, when creating an urban garden,...