Connecting Greater Phoenix gardeners with information that helps put xeriscape principles into action.

Chipper/Shredder for Yard and Garden Waste


It slices!  It dices!  It makes Ron Popeil rub his hands together with glee!

I am not entirely certain how I lived without a chipper shredder next to my compost bin.  Worse, I’m not sure why I spent countless hours (and calluses) cutting my yard waste down to manageable pieces so that they would decompose faster.  WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING???

We bought an off-brand of this guy.  Same specs, same everything.  Just a different color (ours is blue, but I would have preferred the yellow).  I set it out next to the compost bin and, in mere seconds, it eats up my trimmings and spits them into the compost bin.  Now we’re working on mulch for our work area.

Some hints, though…it works much better on fresh wood than on dried wood.  We put a piece of dried mesquite through it…common in the Phoenix desert, mesquite is a pretty hard wood.  While it did the job, we stopped after one piece.  Smoke…smell…sigh…

I have no idea how long this chipper shredder will last, but it’s well worth what we’ve used it for!


Adding Browns to Your Compost Pile

I recently talked about compost piles and how to add greens, but without browns…well, there’s just no compost.  Or at least healthy, fresh-smelling compost.  And here in the Phoenix desert, good compost is the key to growing great edibles.

Brown materials contain the carbon that balances the nitrogen found in green materials.  Dry leaves make up most of the brown materials that will likely go into your compost pile.  But there are other good sources of browns, too:

  • Dry leaves (including dead plant trimmings)
  • Shredded paper
  • Sawdust (in small amounts)
  • Straw (can also be used as mulch)
  • Pine needles (in limited quantities)

I mix browns and greens equally, and water and turn in between.  Again, a really good resource for composting–written by a Master Gardener here in Phoenix–is Composting For Dummies.  The book provides more precise information about the how’s and why’s of composting, as well as more general information about bins, tools, and more.


Adding Greens to Your Compost Pile

Adding Greens to a Compost PileEarlier I mentioned three easy steps for composting.  One of those steps was to add “greens.”  But what constitutes “green” stuff?

Well, with a couple of exceptions, greens are…well, they’re green.  They have lots of nitrogen to help with decomposition, and they’re often readily available in your kitchen.  I usually keep a compost container in my kitchen so I can add scraps throughout the day.  It’s also a great way to clean out the fridge and get rid of those “science experiments.”

Excellent greens found in the kitchen include:

  • Raw or cooked fruits and vegetables (including skins, rinds, cores, etc.)
  • Coffee grounds, coffee filters, and teabags
  • Salsas and other sauces
  • Corncobs
  • Breads, rices, and other grains
  • Any liquids used in cooking

You can also add fruit pits as well as the shells from nuts and shellfish.  They do decompose slower than other kitchen scraps, so trying grinding or crushing them into small pieces first.

Nitrogen-rich plant trimmings and cuttings can also go into your compost pile.  These include:

  • Leafy materials from pruned trees and shrubs
  • Remnants from your vegetable garden
  • Cut and spent flowers
  • Weeds (without the seed heads)
  • Grass clippings (without the seed heads)

I generally don’t use any of these but manure, animal and human hair, and hay are all green materials that can be added to your pile in limited quantities.

Just remember to break everything down into small pieces for faster decomposition.  Oh, and I highly recommend the Composting For Dummies book.  It’s a great reference and covers just about everything related to composting.


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