There are many things you can buy for a garden that are not strictly necessary, and many that you can certainly do without. But one thing that I would highly recommend investing in if you have a reasonably large garden is a shredder or chipper—something to break down larger woody materials.
I try to live a sustainable lifestyle and don't buy much for my garden. When I do need something new, I adopt a DIY approach as much as possible. I make use of natural and reclaimed materials in the garden wherever I can.
The only times that I have bought something for the garden is when those items will help me to reduce consumption, and to live and garden in a more sustainable way. Our electric-powered garden shredder is one of the best purchases I have made.
I will soon be turning to it once more—to shred pruned material and other biomass from the garden. This is something I have done each spring over the last few years.
I minimally prune many trees and shrubs over the winter months. By spring, we usually have a rather large pile of woody debris in a corner of the forest garden. While I do leave woody material in some areas of the garden, where it can become part of the ecology of the woodland and forest floor, I also find it beneficial to make use of this material.
I use the shredded and chipped material in a number of different ways. Some makes its way into my fungal compost, and some goes into the regular cold composting system. I also use the material to replenish pathways through the forest garden and other garden areas.
Shredding and chipping biomass from the garden in spring means that it can provide for many needs around the space. It helps me keep the cycles turning in my garden without having to buy anything new.
I find it easiest to undertake this job in spring once the weather has begun to warm and when conditions are quite dry where I live. Leaving woody material to dry a little makes the job easier.
When I began to create my gardens, I used lots of shredded green leafy and woody material in the creation of new growing areas: "lasagna" no-dig beds and hugelkultur beds. I also used the material extensively while turning the existing walled orchard on our property into a forest garden.
A major reason to invest in a garden shredder is to overcome one of the bigger challenges in creating no-dig gardens. Many wonder where to find all the materials to create new beds, along with the mulch materials to maintain them over time.
But a well-designed and well-managed garden can often provide most, if not all, of the materials needed to start a new garden. Being able to break down woody materials makes it a lot easier to build new beds and improve the soil prior to planting.
Another thing to think about is that, in areas where wildfires are a potential issue, clearing land of dead wood and dry brush can be crucial in mitigating risk.
Many people turn to controlled burns or garden fires to get rid of woody material that builds up and increases fire risk. But shredding and utilizing the material is a more eco-friendly choice. Using these materials as mulch can conserve soil moisture, further helping to protect the area around your property.
A good garden shredder will make it easier for you to complete natural cycles in your garden. It will help you to make full use of the woody materials that grow on your site. And it will prevent you from needing to bring materials in to create new beds and growing areas. This can be justified as a green and eco-friendly purchase for many gardeners, particularly if you run it using renewable sources of electricity.
So, if you really want to garden in a sustainable way and make the most of your outside spaces, investing in a garden shredder is something I would recommend.
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