Bale choppers and mulch spreaders

You need to cover your newly seeded area with a mulch of straw or hay. You could spend hours under the scorching sun poking the prongs of a pitchfork into a hay bale, then spreading the loosened hay by hand over your acreage. Or, you could complete the job in minutes with a bale chopper or a mulch spreader. Unless you have a lot of spare time or a large crew, using the chopper or spreader could be the path to take.

"Shaking bales with a pitchfork-that was hard work," says Dean Bork, advertising coordinator for Patz Sales Inc. in Pound, Wis. "These choppers are a real leap forward. They are really fast."

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Sometimes called bale choppers, straw blowers or mulchers (depending on who's building them), the machines shred and separate hay or straw (and sometimes other materials), then distribute the mulch evenly onto a surface.

Typically, the choppers and spreaders are used to apply a mulching cover of hay or straw to protect a newly seeded area to enhance retention of soil moisture and to ward off wind or water erosion.

"It would take four men half a day to do an acre by hand," says Norm Krisburg, sales manager for Reinco Inc. in Plainfield, N.J. "Now it can be done literally in minutes."

A mulch spreader is also likely to distribute hay and straw more evenly than workers could do manually.

Which machine?

"The size of the job dictates the size of the machine," says Bob Jones, sales manager for Bowie Industries in Bowie, Texas, whose Aero-Mulcher can spread 7 tons of straw or hay per hour.

Smaller choppers and spreaders are portable and can disperse 1.5 tons to 3 tons in an hour; some manufacturers also measure capacity based on bales chopped per minute. The smaller machines chop about two bales per minute.

The small machines are typically used by companies that handle residential and small commercial landscaping jobs.

"You can put it on the back of a pickup truck and blow as you go," says Krisburg.

Some units can also be towed by tractors.

The larger units take in hay or straw manually or through an automatic feed system and can spread as much as 20 tons in an hour. They are commonly used on highway construction and large commercial sites.

Another key in deciding what kind of chopper or spreader you should acquire is the distance the machine can spread its mulch. Smaller machines can disperse materials 40 to 50 feet, and hose attachments can extend the range significantly.

The hose allows workers to distribute mulch around obstacles and in hard-to-reach areas.

With hose attachments, some larger machines can spew straw and hay hundreds of feet.

Some units also have an optional vacuum attachment, so the machine can be used to clean up leaves and debris in addition to spreading mulch.

Some models also come with a choice of gasoline or diesel engines.

With a variety of sizes and options to choose from, you should be able to find the right piece of equipment to suit your needs.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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