People let me tell you ’bout my best friend…

So far a mild fall has lingered here in mid-Michigan.  With temps in the mid-50’s I was able make much more headway on my fall clean-up than usual.  Typically we get enough early snows or cold-damp November gales that I don’t get to the last of the leaves and frosted hostas until spring.  Leaves are especially challenging here at Daisy Hill farm.  We have about dozen hardwood trees, mainly oaks and hickories, that drop a sizable load of leaves each fall.  For the leaves that fall in the lawn I follow Jeff’s practice and work them into the grass with the mower.  But that still leaves the leaves in the beds and every other nook and cranny they can find their way into.  Then it’s time to pull out the rake and my Craftsman 7.5 hp chipper/shredder; aka ‘My best friend’ (cue Harry Nilsson singing the ‘Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ theme).  I bought the shedder 8 year’s ago and it’s worked like a champ.  The manufacturer claims a 16:1 volume reduction and I’d say that’s a reasonable estimate.  My usual M.O. is to rake leaves, dead perennials, even small twigs into a series of piles and then work my way around the yard.  The main things to avoid are rocks (of course) and plants with long fibrous stems such as tomatoes, which can wrap around the impeller.  In a bit of serendipity, the original bag that came with unit finally wore to tatters so I ordered a new one from Sears on-line.  The new bag actually goes to a newer model and is almost three times the size of the original.  Having to continually empty the bag had been my biggest complaint about the system, so I’m in leaf shredding heaven now.  Since the oak leaves predominate I use the shredded leaves as mulch, putting down about a 1” layer each fall on tree and shrub beds.  It has a nice, natural appearance.  Plus it’s about 1% nitrogen.  Not a huge number, but a good way to recycle what nature have given us.  And certainly better than burning (or attempting to burn) leaves, which is still the most popular disposal method in rural Michigan.

2 thoughts on “People let me tell you ’bout my best friend…”

  1. I spend about 7 months of the year pruning fruit trees- mostly apples. Years ago I purchased a small commercial chipper- 24 HP, hydraulic feed- the Brush Bandit estate model.
    Cost me as much as a truck. I grew to hate that machine. Chippers require so much power to do their job that when used a lot they are very high maintenance machines. It was one machine I never made any money on- it all went to my mechanic. I hated the racket the thing made- most of the pruning I do is with a Japanese hand saw so chain saws are not a regular feature of my work environment. That chipper could disturb an entire neighborhood.

    I can understand using a chipper when you don’t have a place to drag brush and leaves out of site to rot in their own good time, but in no way can their use be qualified as green IMO. It takes a lot of petro to grind down yard waste and your neighbors are having their peace disturbed every time you start the thing up.

  2. Several months ago I went to a presentation by a grower that specializes in epimediums. In the fall they blow the leaves out of the beds, shred them, and then blow them back into the beds.

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