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If you live where trees abound, you’re probably already used to dealing with limbs that come down after heavy winds hit. Cleaning up the yard when there are piles of debris is always a chore, but one tool that can make the job go a lot faster is a wood chipper. Toss in limbs and out fly piles of ground chips that are perfect for topping flower beds or for use as bedding materials for garden paths. Before you start shopping for a wood chipper, however, assess the size of your property. Do you have acres of trees that require maintenance or just a few? What type of debris do you normally have to deal with? Is it just a few small twigs and the occasional small branch, or do you often have to dispose of bigger branches? Do you also want to grind up leaves for mulch? In this case a shredder might be the answer. Here are three tips that will help you answer these questions to find the wood chipper that’s just right for your needs.

Electric Wood Chippers

Top Pick

Provides over 130 cuts per second. WEN

Smaller electric wood chippers are great for small jobs around the yard. They’re lightweight, so they’re very portable and most will grind up limbs to about 1 3/8 inches in diameter without being strained. Since electric models are generally small, they’re also easier to store. You will be limited to the length of your electrical cord, but for smaller yards this may not be an issue. If you know you’re going to have to deal with larger limbs on a more regular basis, however, the power afforded by beefier gas-powered models will be what you want.

Gas-powered Chippers

The Real Deal

Handles leaves and branches up to ½ inches. GreatCircleUSA

For bigger jobs, you really want to go with a more powerful gas-powered model. Depending on what you choose, gas-powered models can easily handle limbs from 1 ½ to 3 inches. Look for models that have a tall shoot for feeding in longer limbs. When choosing blade designs, note that rotating disk/blade wood chippers cut at a 45-degree angle. They’ll work well on straight-grained types of wood, but if you have a lot of soft, stringy kinds of wood on your property, those kinds of woods can cause blades to clog up. Drum-type blades are horizontal and pull in limbs that are fed into them. These are the kinds of blades you see on much larger commercial-grade chippers and they can handle just about any type of wood dry or wet.

Shredding for Mulch

Great Value

This compact option is the perfect yard companion. Sun Joe

For those who really want to grind up leaves along with smaller limbs for mulch, a chipper/shredder is a tool to consider. These tools are not as powerful as dedicated wood chippers, but they can handle smaller branches and are great for grinding up leaf litter to produce fine mulch for gardens. For light-duty work around the yard, chipper/shredders offer a good compromise.