Garden Shredder Buying Guide
This guide will go over some of the advantages of adding a garden shredder to your tool kit, along with a rundown on the differences between the main types of garden shredder you’re likely to encounter on the market.
Do I need a Garden Shredder?
If you regularly find yourself pruning trees, bushes and hedges then there’s a good chance you will occasionally be left with more waste material than you know what to do with. This has been especially true during the warmer summers we’ve had in the UK recently, when some garden flora seems determined to undermine your best efforts to contain it – often it seems like you wake up the next day only to discover a fresh batch of wild growth sprouting up from the area you’ve just neatly trimmed.
Unfortunately, the piles of spindly offcuts that build up during these pruning sessions can be awkward to deal with. Even when you haven’t got that much by weight, you can easily fill up a bag, wheelbarrow or waste bin in a short space of time. Compost heaps make ideal dumping grounds for leaves but any branches or larger, woody stems will take a long time to break down and decompose, making them less than ideal – even if you can fit them all in.
So unless you have the luxury of space in which to dump it and forget about it, this waste material often ends up being burnt on a bonfire or getting transported off the premises to become someone else’s problem (sometimes for a fee). In many cases, waste will be refused if it is over a certain size and won’t fit on the fire, so you may have to spend just as long breaking it up into smaller pieces.
The allure of a shredder is this instance is twofold – firstly, it makes the waste much easier to bag up, store and transport, by reducing its bulk and enabling it to be compacted down, meaning fewer trips to the tip or piles of clippings on the lawn. And secondly, it can turn this waste into something useful that you can put back into the garden, meaning you may no longer need to come up with new and inventive ways of getting rid of it.
Uses for Shredded Waste
As mentioned above, the more substantial chunks of pruning waste will cause problems if you throw them straight onto a compost heap. Thick and woody growth can take years to break down to the point where it is suitable to go back into the soil, and in the meantime it will simply clog up your compost, meaning getting to the good stuff can quickly become a difficult and frustrating challenge. However, if you shred it into fine pieces first, not only will it be easier to shovel and pack down, but decomposition will take effect more rapidly and it will soon be assimilated into the rest of your heap. This pays off for lighter debris too – the more you can reduce it in size, the quicker it will decompose.
Compost isn’t the only thing you can make with a garden shredder – due to their slow rate of decomposition, wood chips make an ideal mulch for use on top of cultivated soil. As well as providing a decorative finish, this additional layer helps to retain moisture and suppress weeds during the summer, while in the winter it can help to shield the roots of sensitive plants from freezing temperatures. You can purchase bags of wood chips from garden stores for this purpose – but with a shredder you can make your own!
What Type of Garden Shredder Do I Need?
You’ll find that garden shredders usually fall into three main categories: Impact Shredders, Roller Shredders and Chipper Shredders. Or actually you might not have found that, as they are often sold under a variety of different labels. For example, Impact Shredders may also be referred to as Rapid Shredders, while Roller Shredders are often called Drum Shredders, Crushing Shredders, Quiet Shredders or Silent Shredders. In each case, the way they work is slightly different and each has its pros and cons.
- Usually the cheapest and lightest type of garden shredder
- Powered by mains electricity
- Typical Maximum Branch Diameter: 45mm
- Most effective on green (young) offcuts
- Blades will eventually lose their edge and require maintenance
The Impact Shredder (or Rapid Shredder) chops up incoming matter with one or more blades which spin around inside the machine. The operator has to keep feeding the material in (a handheld plunger is often provided) and as long as the blades remain sharp, they can do the job pretty effectively – they will chop the material up finely and are ideal for leafy, green material. Impact shredders are also generally the lightest and most affordable of garden shredders. On the other hand, they are noisy and fairly aggressive – the blades can whip the branches about while you’re feeding them in and spit debris back out into your face so your PPE checklist typically includes gloves, ear defenders and eye protection.
- Intermediate price
- Powered by mains electricity
- Typical Maximum Branch Diameter: 45mm
- Most effective on dryer, woody branches
- Roller feeds the material automatically
- Quietest option out of all garden shredders
- Prone to blockages
- Heavier than impact shredders
Roller Shredders tend to be a heavier and more expensive type of garden shredder compared to the Impact types – the reason being that they are fitted with internal drums which pull the material into the machine, where it is crushed and chopped up. The roller mechanism helps take a lot of the effort out of the input stage, and these garden shredders are easier on the ears (which is why they are often known as quiet shredders or silent shredders). Some disadvantages are that they can be prone to blockages, especially with greener clippings, and you can expect to have to spend some time opening them up to clear these from time to time.
- Usually the most expensive option
- Powered by petrol
- Typical Maximum Branch Diameter: 50mm
- Perfect for making wood chip mulch
- Suitable for large workloads
- Ideal for larger properties
- Require regular maintenance and safe storing of fuel
These machines run on petrol engines and are usually the most powerful and effective type of garden shredder, being able to rapidly reduce large waste piles into perfectly formed wood chips which are great for use as mulch. They are ideal for larger properties as they can cope with heavy duty workloads and, being petrol-powered, they don’t need to be used near a power socket. Petrol is not without it’s disadvantages of course – buying, running and maintaining an engine involves spending a bit more time and money than with electric alternatives. On top of that they are loud machines which produce noxious fumes, so should not be used in enclosed areas.
Other Things to Look Out for
Be aware that the quoted maximum branch diameter is often based on green waste rather than hard, woody branches – in which case it is a good idea to halve this figure to get an idea of the maximum hard branch that will be appropriate for shredding. Some shredders are supplied with a collection canister which means you can conveniently tip all your processed clippings out when it’s full, but some shredders don’t include any kind of collection container and will simply spray the shreddings back into the outside world unless you rig up your own collection system. Remember to take appropriate safety precautions when using a garden shredder – make sure you are wearing any recommended PPE such as safety goggles, gloves and ear defenders, and pay attention to the hazards of using electric or petrol tools outdoors – you shouldn’t use an electric shredder in wet conditions, or attempt to shred wet debris, and it is recommended to ensure there is an RCD in the circuit when using corded electric tools outside. Petrol is extremely flammable and should never be stored in or around residential buildings. Petrol tools should only ever be used in open, ventilated work areas.
Where can I Buy a Garden Shredder?
At Tooled Up we stock all three types of shredder, so if you’ve decided you want to add one to your tool kit why not take a look at our selection here.
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