After collecting the branches I’d pruned from my Valencia orange tree, I knew just what I would do with them.

I could have sent them away in a trash can. I could have stacked them in a brush pile in a far corner of the yard. I could have chopped them into small pieces with my hand pruners. I’ve done all of those things with fruit tree prunings in the past.

But now I will run them through a wood chipper.

Prunings in wheelbarrow.
Feeding the chipper.
End product. (Actually a mix of orange tree branches, live oak branches, and raspberry canes.)

I’ve owned two different wood chippers. The first was the red one shown at the top of the post. It’s a 5-horsepower, gasoline-engine chipper. It worked well although it was loud. Eventually, the engine refused to start.

On the recommendation of a fellow gardener, I purchased the electric chipper shown in the photo above. It is not quite as loud as the gas-powered chipper, and after almost a year using it I have grown to like it better. These days, I find myself looking forward to pruning trees just so I can chip them up.

Turning awkward branches into small bits is pleasing. It also smells good. You can imagine the citrus aroma when I chipped those orange tree branches. Peach branches also smell nice, and some avocado branches give off a refreshing licorice scent.

But mostly I like what I can do with the wood chips (and shredded leaves). Often, I pour them under the tree from which I pruned. Doing so returns the nutrients taken from the tree in the body of those branches. The chips then feed the small organisms that break it down into nutrients that the tree can later use again. This can reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer.

Instead, on this day, I spread the mulch under a newly planted Ettinger avocado tree.

(See my post about the benefits of using wood chips as mulch under fruit trees.)

Other times I pour the wood chips into a receptacle for making compost. It could be a wire bin, like this one I made:

Thank you, chicken, for adding manure.

The wood chips mixed with other ingredients, such as old vegetable plants, rotten fruit, weeds, food scraps, and manure will eventually become dark brown compost. Some of my homemade compost:

Which I use in many ways, including to grow all of my vegetable seedlings:

‘Jericho’ romaine lettuce sown June 4 and ready for planting here on July 3. (Now is not a good time to plant lettuce though. See comments below.)

(See my post on making compost in simple ways.)

Do you have multiple fruit trees that you prune? Do you use mulch under the trees? Do you make compost? Then a wood chipper might be worth the price tag for you.

In the past, I’d thought using a chipper would not be efficient in terms of time and effort. It would be faster to send my prunings to the municipal disposal service where they could chip them along with everyone else’s landscape trimmings, and then I could later get a whole truckload of wood chips or compost from them for free or for a small fee.

(Miramar Greenery does this in San Diego, El Corazon does this in Oceanside, mulch and compost can be picked up at various sites in Los Angeles, and you can get free mulch in Riverside, in Ventura, and in Santa Barbara County, not to mention the option of Chip Drop.)

Getting a lot of compost, fast, at Miramar Greenery. Photo: Bob Jaynes.

However, I’ve found that once I learned to use the chipper well it didn’t take much time or effort. I’m also comforted by knowing the provenance of my wood chips. And I like that there are no shredded bits of plastic or shards of glass, as I’ve always encountered in the municipal mulch and compost. Finally, the wood chips are right there at my feet, chipped into a bag that I can easily tote to wherever I want to spread them.

Using my own chipper has turned out to be convenient and worth the price of admission.

The chipper I’m using these days is the Sun Joe CJ603E, and it cost about $170 before tax.

It’s now hard for me to imagine not having a chipper to make fast mulch and compost, and to keep my trees’ nutrient resources in my yard. I like the closed loop. If you’re interested in this style of gardening, I bet you’ll also enjoy having your own wood chipper.

A list with links to all of my Yard Posts is HERE.

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