Sick of enduring splinters and sap stains as you wrestle branches and leaves into the bin on green-waste day? If your garden produces a lot of sticks and cuttings, as well as leafy material, a good shredder will quickly turn them into woodchips suitable for mulching garden beds or adding to compost, saving you money as well as energy.
If you mainly have leaves in your garden and rarely deal with branches, a blower vac with a built-in mulcher might suit you better.
Blades or rollers?
There are two main cutting systems used in garden shredders
(also sometimes called chippers). Some use blades to cut the material into small chips, and others use a ridged roller that crushes and cuts the material. Blades are generally considered to be more effective than rollers with freshly cut or leafy material.
Electric or petrol?
Electric shredders generally cost under $500, and can handle branches up to about 4cm in thickness. They will probably need an extension cord designed for outdoor use. You’ll have to think about the distance from a power point to where you want to shred. Be sure to the minimise risk of shock if the cord is damaged by plugging it into a point with a safety switch.
If you are looking for some heavy duty shredding more than 4cm in thickness, a petrol engine might be the machine for you. These are usually priced from $1000 to $2000 but can shred thicker branches - up to 5-6cm. And because they don't need access to electrical power, they’re better suited to use in areas remote from the house.
Be aware that shredders shoot out debris and can also be very noisy. You’ll need to wear eye and ear protection, gloves, sturdy shoes, and long trousers - and keep kids and pets well away.
What to look for
Ease of use
When shopping for a shredder, if you can, test how easy it is to manoeuvre and lift. A heavy or clunky model may be hard to use in rough terrain or over distance. Check also how easy it is to access the blades for adjustment. A reverse function makes clearing blockages easier.
Basically a small paddle with a handle used to push the material into the shredder, a plunger helps to avoid a nasty injury to your fingers. If the model you are looking at doesn’t come with a plunger, you can also use a sturdy stick.
If your machine does not come with a collection bag, a sturdy garbage bag will often work just as well.
When investigating different models, check the maximum branch diameter that the shredder will accept and make sure the potentially shreddable matter in your backyard comes in under that measurement.
Prices range from around $200 to $499.