The most important step before you use a wood chipper is choosing how to catch the chips. The best ways to catch wood chipper chips include:
In the rest of the article, we're going to discuss the pros and cons of each of these ways to catch chips. But before we dive in, we want to mention our buying guide on the top wood chippers. If you're shopping for a wood chipper, then be sure to check it out.
We mentioned the best ways to catch chips at the start of this article, but now we'll go into more detail and explain some tips and tricks for each method.
If you have a lot of organic material to chip, such as tree limbs and branches, then catching chips with a trailer is the probably best approach and the one we recommend.
Types of Trailers:
The benefit of a large or medium trailer is that it allows you to move more mulch and wood chips around at a time. But the downside is that it has less maneuverability in and around your flower beds than a smaller garden trailer or tow-cart.
A small trailer, such as a 3' x 4' garden cart, is a better choice if increased maneuverability is a concern. But you will also need a vehicle to tow the cart, such as a garden tractor or ATV. Just make sure it's small enough to fit into tight spots where you want to dump the chips.
PRO TIP: The most important consideration when deciding to use a trailer to catch wood chipper chips is whether the chute on your wood chipper is tall enough to reach the bed of the trailer. If your wood chipper's chute is not tall enough, then using a trailer to catch the chips probably won't work.
The next best way to catch wood chips is by using a trash can or garbage can. A trash can is large enough to catch wood chips with little blow-back and it has enough volume to make your effort worthwhile.
Here is a chart of different trash can sizes in gallons, how many cubic feet of wood chips they hold, and their weight if filled completely:
If you do end up going with a 55-gallon or 96-gallon trash can to catch your chips then make sure you're strong enough to drag it across your lawn and dump it where you need the chips.
Another way to catch wood chips from a chipper is by using a wheelbarrow. Typical wheelbarrows carry about 6 cubic feet of wood chips and weigh about 175 pounds when full.
Unlike using a trash can, it's much easier to move wood chips in a wheelbarrow because a wheelbarrow is classified as a second class lever. In a second class lever, the weight of the load is located between the force and the fulcrum, making it much easier to lift a greater amount of wood chips using less force.
As we move down the list of ways to catch wood chips, using a tarp is near the bottom of the list. The largest benefit of using a tarp to catch wood chipper chips is that it can save your lawn and has little to no mess or cleanup.
However, the main downside to a tarp full of chips is its weight. A big pile of wood chips on top of a tarp can easily weigh several hundred pounds and dragging it across your lawn by hand is impractical. One solution is to tie two corners of the tarp to a rope and attach it to an ATV or garden tractor. Another solution is to place the tarp in the location you intend to spread the wood chips, which makes transport a non-issue.
The next way some people use to catch wood chips is a heavy-duty bag. In some instances, a wood chipper will come with a bag from the manufacturer and it is designed to easily attach to the output chute.
If your wood chipper doesn't include a bag, then you can buy a garden waste bag with carrying handles online. Most waste bags hold 72 gallons and are designed to easily drag across your lawn and empty at the desired location, such as in your flower beds.
The last and cheapest method of catching wood chips is to use the ground. In some situations, this is a great choice if your wood chipper is mobile and you can have it chip where the material is needed.
Using the ground to catch wood chips becomes more of an issue if your pile of brush and landscape clippings is further away from where you want to use the chips. You'll have to either shovel the chips into a wheelbarrow or use a tractor to move them to where you need them. But even with these difficulties, using the ground is a free solution.
The worst way to catch chips from a wood chipper is by using your hands. In a chipper, the high rotational speed of the flywheel causes chips to exit the chute at around 50 mph. At this rate of speed, the chips can easily pierce the skin and leave lasting damage. They can also lead to blindness and you'll end up with a face full of chips. You should NEVER stand in front of a wood chipper or try to use your body to catch wood chips.
Remember to always follow the safety procedure outlined in your chipper's manual. This should at the minimum include wearing eye protection, hearing protection, and gloves.
Are you shopping for a new wood chipper? Here are some of our favorites that we want to share. Also, if you need some help, then be sure to check out our detailed buying guide. It explains some of the important considerations when shopping for a wood chipper.