How To Make Wood Chip Mulch for Your Yard
By: Julie Day
How do I make my own bark mulch? What equipment do I need? –Sunny
Bark mulch is usually made at lumber mills, where large trees are fed through machines that remove the bark before the wood is sawn into lumber. Most homeowners don’t have the equipment (or enough trees) to make pure bark mulch.
However, you can use a wood chipper/shredder to make your own wood mulch; which is a great way to recycle trees, broken limbs, and debris in your yard. Here’s how.
Wood Chip Mulch Basics
To make wood mulch, you’ll need to rent or buy a wood chipper/shredder. The smaller portable models generally grind branches up to 2”-3” in diameter. For limbs up to 6” in diameter, you’ll need to rent a larger model that’s pulled on a trailer, which will require a vehicle with a trailer hitch to bring the chipper home.
Grinding up tree trunks requires a large industrial chipper, so for bigger jobs consider hiring a landscape or tree trimming company.
Your machine will come with specific instructions, but in general it’s just a matter of feeding wood and yard debris into the hopper and watching the wood chips pour out the other end! Here are a few tips for chipping branches and other tree debris:
- Machine Size: Chippers are rated according to the maximum diameter wood they can shred. Be sure you’ve got the right type of shredder for your project.
- Wood Chip Mulch: For uniform wood chip mulch, remove leaves and twiggy material and just shred the wood branches.
- Leaves and Clippings: For maximum recycling power, mix in grass clippings and leaves for mulch that will decompose into nutritious compost.
- Double Grinding: For finer mulch, shovel the wood chips back into the chipper for a second grinding. When you purchase mulch from a professional mulch yard, you can choose from single-ground, double-ground, and even triple-ground – it’s easy to do this yourself.
- Aromatic Mulch: To enhance the smell of your mulch, buy a bag or two of cedar chips, and mix them into with second grinding.
- Mulch Color: While the wood chip mulch will start out as a light color, it will darken over time.
Follow the safety instructions that come with the chipper/shredder including:
- Keep a Safe Distance: Safety tips for shredder/chippers almost go without saying – once you see what the machine can do to a tree, you’ll want to stay as far away from the business end as you can!
- Protect Eyes and Hands: Wear safety glasses and work gloves at all times.
- Use Wooden Tools: NEVER use your hands or metal tools to push material into the hopper. Use a forked stick or old broom handle instead.
- Take It Slow: Feed in small amounts at a time to avoid jams. If something does get stuck in the hopper, turn off the machine and use an old rake handle or pole to work it loose.
- Remove Excess: Periodically bag or cart away the mulch to keep it from piling up and overheating the machine.
- Turn It Off: Always turn off or unplug the chipper/shredder when clearing jams.
- Compare Garden Shredders (the-organic-gardener.com)
- Using Mulch in Your Garden (article)
- Tips for Using Mulch in Your Yard (video)
- How to Change the Color of Mulch (article)