If you’re someone who likes to keep on top of their garden, you’ll no doubt despair at the hassle that comes with disposing of garden waste – whether that be a trip to the local tip; having to pay to subscribe to your council’s garden waste service, or having to try and squeeze branches and plants into a bin that seems to be full just days after being emptied! This leaves you with the problem of where to put your garden debris for the coming weeks, as most council services only collect monthly.
The solution? A garden shredder.
Garden shredders break down all your garden waste debris, including leaves, hedge cuttings, branches and grass trimmings, making their disposal a much more manageable task – your garden will be spotless in no time.
Garden shredders come in many shapes, sizes and prices – starting from around £100. The higher-end models tend to have a stronger motor and more efficient shredding action, as well as coming with additional features such as a waste collection basket or extra speed/power settings.
Only got 5 minutes
By using a garden shredder you can reduce your garden prunings into a useful mulch quickly and effectively, saving you time, effort and money.
Choosing a garden shredder
When browsing garden shredder models, you first need to decide which type of shredder is best suited to you and your garden, and also, which fuel you intend on using – electricity or petrol.
The two main types of garden shredder
|Type of shredder||Overview|
|Impact shredder |
(also known as rapid shredders)
|Impact shredders slice foliage and other light garden material leaves very finely as they have a sharp, spinning blade mechanism, but are not necessarily suitable for woody material. They’re noisier than roller shredders so ear protection is advised but, if you can deal with the noise, they tend to be cheaper and are also less likely to get blocked than roller shredders. They are lighter in weight and so are easier to move around.|
|Roller shredder||Instead of using a chopping/slicing action like the impact shredder, roller shredders cut and crush garden waste using a ridged roller inside the machine. It is a good choice if you have a big garden and so have a lot of material to shred. They are also much quieter than impact shredders meaning disposing of your garden waste doesn’t have to be an ear-deafening experience! A model with easy-to-access rollers can help keep blockages to a minimum as this is a downside to choosing a roller shredder. Roller shredders are also heavier and tend to be more expensive than impact shredders.|
For those of us who just intend on using our shredder at home, an electric model tends to be the most popular choice, providing you have an accessible power source and choose a model with a decent cable length (or invest in an outdoor extension cable).
If you don’t have access to power, you will need to consider a petrol model; these can be moved around your garden freely without the restrictions of a cable and also tend to be more powerful than electric models. They do, however, tend to be more expensive and require regular servicing. This, along with the cost of petrol itself, can end up being quite a hit to your bank balance.
How a garden shredder works
With most domestic shredders, the garden waste – foliage, branches, leaves, wood – are manually fed into the mouth of the machine, usually at the top, fed in (usually) at the top; the motor then slowly pulls in the debris. Then, depending on which type of shredder you opted for, the waste will either be chopped/sliced (impact shredder) or rolled (roller shredder). Good quality shredders will work smoothly and consistently but beware if you’re going for a budget version – clogging is a common problem with shredders and although its relatively easy to clear a blockage, doing so makes the process hard work and time consuming as the safety housing which covers the motor will need to be moved each time a blockage occurs to allow access to the blades/roller.
Garden Shredders – the two main types
Impact shredders are also known as rapid shredders due to the short time it takes them to chop garden material. Impact shredders have a sharp, spinning blade mechanism which slices up garden material. They chop foliage – including leaves, green branches and other lighter garden foliage – very finely. Due to the use of a blade, an impact shredder is not recommended for wood-based material.
Impact shredders tend to be cheaper, are lighter in weight, and are less likely to get blocked than roller shredders however they are much noisier to operate.
Instead of using a chopping/slicing blade action like the impact shredder, roller shredders cut and crush garden debris using a ridged roller inside the machine. It works by pulling garden material through the machine and is capable of shredding large amounts of waste – probably a better choice if you have a big garden and so have a lot of material to shred.
A downside to choosing a roller shredder is that they can be prone to blockages – especially from finer, more fibrous foliage – but choosing a model with easy-to-access rollers, and one which has a gap between the roller and the plate, can help keep blockages to a minimum.
Roller shredders are heavier than impact shredders meaning they’re not as easy to move around, even when on wheels, so it’s worth thinking about where you tend to keep your shredder and the size of your garden.
Roller shredders are also more expensive, justified by the fact they are able to shred a greater amount of garden waste; they are also much quieter than impact shredders.
Fuel – petrol or electric?
For those of us who just intend on using our shredder at home, an electric model tends to be the most popular choice. It is worth thinking about where your nearest power source is located and checking the length of the electric cable supplied with the shredder – will it be sufficient to reach from the power source to the garden? Are you restricted on where you will be able to position the shredder?
If cable length proves to be a problem, the solution is an outdoor extension cable. These are easy to pick up but if you don’t have one already, this could end up being an additional cost you hadn’t bargained for. If you don’t have an easily accessible power source or cable length is a concern, a petrol model may be a better option.
As well as being cable-free and so allowing you to move around your garden more easily, petrol models also tend to be more powerful. This is great for those of us who want that extra oomph however, as a result, they tend to be more expensive and require regular servicing. This, along with the outlay of the petrol itself, can prove costly.
Waste from a shredder
When used correctly, shredders will reduce garden waste down to a manageable pile in no time – they turn branches, twigs and stems into fresh, long-lasting bark mulch, which can be used for paths and borders, and wood chips, which can be used as ground-cover for your garden beds. Mulch is a great way to slowly feed your plants, help retain soil moisture, prevent weeds, stop soil erosion and give your garden a neat and tidy appearance.
A garden shredder might not be the cheapest purchase you make this year but it will certainly be a worthwhile investment – in the long term, it will pay for itself as you won’t be paying hefty garden centre prices for compost or fertilisers. Your home-made mulch will do the job just fine!
Price & additional features
The starting price for a basic garden shredder starts at around £100 with top-end models ranging between £400-£500, depending on what type of shredder you decide on (roller or impact); the fuel type; and any additional features.
Generally speaking, impact shredders are cheaper than roller models.
Additional features which are certainly worth considering are:
- Collection box: To help reduce the mess when you’re gardening and make it easier to transport the shredded material.
- Tamper or reverse setting: Both can help force items back out of the shredder if there’s a blockage.
- Wheels: If you have a big garden, wheels will make it easier to move your shredder around.
- Access hatch to the roller/blades: This will keep the time spent clearing blockages to a minimum and allow access easily and safely
- Safety accessories: Some models come with basic safety equipment, including goggles, gloves and ear defenders.
Handy tips for using your shredder
Using a garden shredder for the first time can be a daunting experience. Follow these handy tips and you’ll be chopping, rolling and mulching in no time!
- Shred material shortly after pruning, as the wood will be a bit softer and will compost down more easily.
- Alternate the waste you feed into the shredder to stop try and prevent the blades from clogging
- Clean out after shredding sappy foliage/bark as this can clog the blades.
- If you have an electric shredder, make sure the shredder is disconnected from the mains before trying to clear any blockages.
- Some saps found in garden waste are irritants so it is advisable to use gloves and eye protection
- Particularly if you have an impact shredder, wear ear defenders when using the shredder for prolonged periods of time.
- Keep the shreddings from different types of material separate: wood-waste for mulch and green foliage waste for composting.
- If you have gravel in your garden, take care that stones don’t find their way into the shredder. Not only can they damage the internal mechanism, but they can also be dangerous to whoever is operating the shredder.
- When feeding branches through a roller shredder, be sure to put the thicker end of the branches through first.
- Be patient and take your time. Trying to force the shredder to take in too much at once will result in blockages and blunting of the blades in an impact shredder.
- Take note of any knots or knobs on branches – check these don’t exceed the cutting diameter of the shredder.
Once you have chosen the model of garden shredder you think best suits your needs; the fuel type you intend on powering it with, and decided on any additional features you think would be useful, you are ready to begin browsing model options.
It is worth shopping around for ‘Best Buys’ or those models which come with ‘free’ additional features. Like with most garden equipment, there are good deals to be had when purchasing a garden shredder, providing you’re willing to shop around.
Frequently Asked Questions
As with any machinery, using a shredder does come with risks but providing you familiarise yourself with the operator manual, there is no reason why using a shredder should be viewed as high-risk. It is advised that safety goggles, gloves and ear-defenders are worn and, when using an electric model, ensure a power breaker plug is used.
Garden shredders should be stored inside when not in use – somewhere dry such as a shed or garage. If not inside, then at least undercover with some kind of waterproof cover to protect the shredder from damp and weather exposure.
Soil or stones should not be put through a garden shredder. Soil will clog the blades/roller and stones have the potential to cause irreparable damage. It is worth brushing off any roots or plants before feeding them into the shredder.