What is a mulcher and how does it work?

October 11, 2022

What Exactly is a Mulcher?

Mulchers are pieces of forestry equipment that’ll grind brush and trees into small particles called “mulch”. In local parks, you’ve likely seen wood chips or mulch in playgrounds or even gardens. 

In a previous blog, we mentioned mulchers as useful skid steer attachments. Mulchers are also found on farm tractors, dozers, and large excavators. Depending on the form, mulchers can be installed on a long boom arm far from the chassis or much closer to the operator. 

Forest and other terrain is mulched for a number of reasons, but most commonly for the following purposes:

  • Conserving soil moisture
  • Reducing natural fuel for wildfire spread
  • Accessing forestry work sites
  • Visibly making the area open and safer to work 
  • Enhancing soil nutrients and health

How does a mulcher work?

Mulchers come equipped in two types: vertical and horizontal shaft mulchers. 

Hoizatonal shaft mulchers are essentially chipping drums mounted on the arms of a machine. The drum rotates at high speeds as it shreds through foliage and trees. These mulchers tend to use forward momentum and push bars to shove any falling trees away from the equipment. Other than that, there isn’t much else influencing the tree's fall.

Vertical shaft mulchers are a scaled-up version of lawn mower mulchers. Some of them use large, singular chipping disks which are mounted on skid steers, tractors, excavators or dozers and use a boom arm to chip a tree from the top down. Vertical mulchers offer more control than horizontal drums since they can mulch high-standing trees via a boom arm and can influence the tree fall direction. 

How do you know when to use a mulcher?

Using a mulcher effectively depends on your forestry operation. If you’re considering using a mulcher, crosscheck that your worksite follows the conditions of tree size, proper gradient and optimal ground conditions.

Tree sizes

Note that vertical shaft mulchers have upward limits on the types of trees they can fall. When you get to your worksite, ensure to measure the diameter of growth you need to mulch. Vertical mulchers tend to handle up to 8 inches just fine, whereas horizontal mulchers can fall trees up to 30 inches. 

Remember the larger the tree diameter, the more strain on the machine and the operator. Mulching can be dangerous due to the sheer volume of flying debris. Ensure you know the capabilities of the mulcher you’re using. 


Understand your team’s experience with mulchers and their comfort of steep slopes. Some machines however cannot handle slopes with a ratio greater than 3:1 (33% gradient). Again, it’s important to check the machine's specifications and the intended operator’s experience and comfort level. 

Optimal Ground Conditions

If you’re considering mulching, ensure to check the terrain for rocks. High levels of rocky terrain could cause the teeth to wear considerably faster. More importantly, rocks tend to cause sparks which will pose a fire risk to you, the environment and to your team. 

Consider Leasing or Financing Options For Your Next Mulcher

Forestry mulching can be a lucrative business. However, the upfront cost of a skid steer attachment can run your operation over $25,000. Higher flow drum mulchers can be upwards of $43,000. 

At Blue Capital, we offer equipment financing to place mulching equipment within your reach. If you’re needing a new mulcher, either to own or to lease, we can grant you competitive financing rates and packages to fit your needs.

Interested? Contact us today to see if you qualify!