Nowadays, most of us have a compost bin or compost heap where we turn our softer garden and kitchen waste into compost for our gardens. Even if you have a small garden, you can buy or make a compact compost bin that helps you turn waste into soil-nourishing compost. But what should you do with woody garden waste?
Snipping up prunings with a pair of garden scissors makes them easier for micro-organisms to digest. Throwing in whole twigs that compost more slowly than your other garden waste obviously isn’t going to work, but if you break them down a bit first, they can make a useful addition to your compost heap. If you have quite a lot of smaller prunings, a domestic chipper can help you to get the job done more easily. Domestic chippers aren’t all that powerful, but they’ll deal with material that’s 3- 4cm in diameter. They might not mill it up fine, but even mashing them up till they’re stringy will make them better food for composting micro-organisms.
These can be absolute gold for your garden once they’re milled up. Industrial shredders will do the job, but please be very careful if you decide to hire a machine and do it yourself. However, the hire is expensive and the machine is cumbersome, so the best solution is to get in a tree care specialist who will have all the necessary equipment and experience – it will certainly save you time and it might even work out cheaper than hiring a machine.
Your wood chips won’t make good compost in any hurry, but they can make absolutely beautiful mulch for spreading on the soil’s surface. Not only does it look nice, but you’ll save water and have less weeds to get rid of. If your branches come from coniferous plants like pine, you will need to let them lie for at least three months to reduce the tannins in the wood. These will stop other plants from growing and may even kill them.
If you don’t need mulch and would prefer to make compost, mix your woody chips with nitrogen-rich, leafy material like grass clippings and leave it to decompose for at least 12 months. Thereafter, you can dig it in as a way of improving your soil texture.
What if I don’t want to keep my prunings at all?
If you’ve got a very small garden or aren’t particularly interested in turning your woody garden waste into something useful, the most environmentally friendly option would be to ensure that they go to a composting operation in your area.