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Mulcher vs. Chipper - What's the difference?

Is a mulcher or a chipper better for your job?


Whether you’re a landscaping contractor or tidying up your own backyard, we all know how quickly green waste can accumulate. If you want to break this waste down to dispose of it, or to turn it into mulch or compost to nourish your garden, there’s a tool to help you get the job done.

Wood chippers and mulchers are both large and robust types of portable landscaping equipment that can be used to reduce bulk garden waste. Both are easy to hire and relatively straightforward and efficient to use. 

Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of your next landscaping hire. 

What is a wood chipper?

A wood chipper is a heavy-duty piece of landscaping equipment used for reducing wood (generally large branches and tree trunks) into small, refined wood chips. The resulting material can quickly and easily be turned into mulch for further landscaping.

What is a mulcher?

Looking a lot like small wood chippers, mulchers (also called ‘shredders’ or ‘leaf shredders’) are great tools for managing lighter garden waste – like dead leaves, twigs, plant matter, wood chips and smaller garden trimmings. Using semi-blunt blades, mulchers mash and shred organic material to prepare it for composting and/or more compact disposal. 

Choosing the right equipment

If in doubt, upsize your hire: 

  • All chippers and mulchers have a maximum branch size that they can work with – so choose a chipper with enough grunt to tackle your toughest job.

  • Mulchers are typically less powerful than wood chippers which means they can’t break down larger branches. Stick to softer, smaller garden trimmings when using a mulcher or leaf shredder to prolong the life of your equipment.

What you can (and can’t) put into your chipper and mulcher:

  • Many chippers and mulchers are not designed to break down palm branches and fronds, bamboo, dead and dry branches or any materials that aren’t organic (despite any temptation to try breaking down items like golf balls and dried, treated wood). 

  • Some wood may have metal in or wrapped around it – like nails, spikes or barbed wire. Never feed wood with any metal fragments found on it into a chipper.

  • Manure and other animal waste can smear and get stuck in crevices making equipment hard to clean and maintain.

  • It’s also best to keep vines well away from all wood chippers as they can quickly become tangled around the blades. 

Check your power source before you hire:

  • To choose a power source that’s right for you, chippers and mulchers can be battery operated, electric or petrol powered. 

Getting the job done

Some additional landscaping equipment may come in handy for completing your work: 

  • Chainsaws and hedge trimmers can fast-track pruning hedges and lopping branches from trees.

  • Leaf blowers offer a quick and easy way to tidy up remaining piles of leaves and small debris.

  • Mini loaders and earth movers (like bobcats, mini excavators and mini dumpers) can also be helpful for moving garden waste around, and for tackling larger landscaping jobs.

Need to hire landscaping equipment for your backyard or site? Talk to us about all of your landscaping needs, or find your local branch.

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