What Is A Garden Shredder? And How To Use Them

Garden shredders used to be only available for commercial tree surgeons etc, but over the past few years more and more manufacturers have been designing shredders aimed at the domestic market. A garden shredder is a fast, convenient way to remove all of your shrub and tree prunings. Relatively inexpensive to buy and run, a garden shredder is probably one of the best larger pieces of garden machinery you can buy.

Garden shredders are available in 2 types, petrol-powered and electric-powered. For home use, an electrical model is the most convenient type to buy. Petrol-powered tend to be much more hard work when it comes down to maintenance etc.

How To Use A Garden Shredder

You feed the branches into the top of the shredder (also known as the hopper) no need to force them, as the rotating blades pull the material down into themselves. Never feed branches with a wider diameter than recommended by the shredder manufacturer(usually 40 to 50 mm). To prevent the blades from clogging, feed a few branches with leaves followed by one or two thicker just wood branches.

If the shredder does clog, there is a button you can press which reverses the spin on the blades-freeing the blockage. Never put your hands inside the hopper, only ever push material through with the tamper provided from the manufacturer to ensure your safety. The chipped materials will fall through the bottom of the shredder, many models have a collection bin, some have a large bag, but others have nothing. To prevent extra work, always be sure the collection bin or bag isn’t over full or overflowing. If your model has no collection container consider using a bucket or some other receptacle to collect the chippings and save having to rake them up after use.

Safety Instructions Before Using A Garden Shredder

For your own safety and the safety of anyone else using the garden shredder you should always:

  • Wear PPE
    When using a garden shredder you should always wear sturdy gloves, a face mask, ear protectors, eye protectors, long sleeved shirts, long trousers and closed shoes or boots.
  • Keep Hands Away From The Hopper
    Never be tempted to put your hands inside the hopper to help the wood through, even if it is stuck, using your hands is the wrong way to clear it. In most cases, if the shredder is clogged, switching to reverse mode usually clears it.
  • Use The Tamper Provided
    The manufacturer provides a tamper purposefully so you don’t damage your hands, fingers or arms. Remember those blades are super sharp and in an argument with them you’d almost certainly lose (possibly fingers, hands or arms).
  • Never Force Branches That Are Too Large
    Anything with a wider diameter than is recommended by the manufacturer will either clog up the shredder, or hurt you or anyone nearby.
  • Never Leave Unattended
    Never walk away from the shredder when it’s in operation. You should be supervising the shredder the entire time it is in use.
  • Read Any Instruction Manuals
    In all honesty we’re not that good at asking for directions or reading instructions. But it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with your shredders instruction manual. Some models operate in different ways to others, so even if you have used one in the past, it’s always advisable to read the instructions on your model before using it.

Why Use A Garden Shredder

Using a garden shredder will save you time, energy, money and give you free wood chippings and material for the compost bin. No more trips to the tip and the inevitable car valet afterwards. No need to hire a skip to take your garden waste away. Wood chippings cost around £100 per ton, you will have access to free wood chippings every time you clear your shrub and tree prunings.

You will no longer have to worry about burning your waste wood on the bonfire, no checking that any wildlife has taken up residence in your burn pile. As you are reusing the materials there is no waste produced, so no environmental concerns either. Once the branches have been through the shredder, they will be the perfect size to add to a compost heap.

What To Do With Garden Shredder Waste

The materials processed through the garden shredder can’t really be called waste, because what you are left with is perfect wood chippings and perfect sized compostable materials. With wood chippings costing around £100 per ton, you will be able to replenish your pathways and mulch your plants for free. As the wood composts into the soil it is adding vital nutrients to the soil.

If you have a compost bin you probably have a plentiful supply of “green” material like leaves etc, but “brown” material is harder to come by. Not any more, you have just shredded a load of “brown” compostable material. Getting the balance right between “green” and “brown” is the difference between successful composting and a stinky, slimy mess. So the waste from the shredder isn’t waste at all.

Composting – The Green And The Brown

We’re often told to make great compost fast, you need to mix the greens with the browns but what are the greens and the browns? Greens provide nitrogen and the browns provide carbon. Compost should be made from a mixture of the 2. Many of us gardeners have plenty of greens but often lack the browns.See below what’s what.

LeavesTwigs, clippings
Flower heads and stemsBranches

To make the best compost for your plants you need a 3 to 1 ratio in favour of the browns, so 3 parts brown to 1 part green. Just think of all those browns you’ve thrown away when you could have been producing fine compost for your plants.

What Can You Shred In A Garden Shredder

You can shred shrub and bush prunings, tree branches less than 50mm diameter,clumps of matted grasses, cardboard, green sappy woods and leaves. Don’t try to shred dried or cured timber or knotty wood as shredders are not designed to deal with these.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put cardboard through a garden shredder?

You can put cardboard through a garden shredder, it is the easiest way to handle cardboard and make it the correct size for composting.

Do you have to shred leaves for compost?

You don’t have to shred leaves for composting, but they will compost much faster if you do.

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