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What are garden shredders and how do they work?

With autumn upon us, many thoughts turn to cutting back finished plants, trimming away faded stems and gazes turn towards the extensive growth on trees that will need to be pruned, lopped or even sawn off over the winter months.

Whilst all of the above is very satisfying and will leave the garden looking neat and tidy and ready for spring, it does tend to leave a huge pile of debris, cuttings and branches that now need to be dealt with. Instead of getting scratched and cut, and making endless trips to the local tip, messing up the inside of your car why not shred it all and reuse it in your own garden?

Garden shredders are the ideal solution to getting rid of bulky waste from all this activity, the chippings can be left in a tidy pile or in a compost bin and then later used for mulching beds in the spring – saving you money on buying materials such as bark chippings etc.

How garden shredders work?

rotary blades

There are two types of shredder available for domestic use; rotary blade or chippers. Rotary blades work by spinning two blades set at an angle, the branch is fed down the chute onto one-half of the disc holding the blades that, as they turn, slice off a small section of it. As the blade rotates, it then slices off another bit, and so on until it has taken the whole branch through.

Chippers tend to be for cuttings with a larger diameter, are slower to use due to the way they operate; a single cog like wheel turns against a guide plate, the branch is fed down the chute again and the wheel grabs it and “bites” off a chunk at a time until the branch has gone.


What is the best choice for me?

grizzly tools garden shredder

The type of Garden Shredder you choose is mainly down to the type of garden debris you will be needing to chop up: Rotary blades tend to be suitable for lighter use, the thicker stems of perennials, general clippings , lighter hedge cuttings and small prunings up to about an inch in diameter – basically, if you can cut it with secateurs then a rotary bladed shredder can probably deal with it.

Chippers tend to be heavier duty, they will deal with all of the above for a rotary blade shredder but can usually handle a slightly large diameter – these are ideal if you have a larger number of good sized shrubs or trees in your garden.

bosch home and garden shredder
mighty mac petrol chipper

OF course there is the ultimate in garden shredders, which is the petrol driven variety, these are for the serious gardener/landscaper and will deal with a far larger diameter and volume of garden waste, often with twin chutes, one for handling shovels full of garden waste and another for branches that can be fed in individually. These beasts have multiple blades, flails and chippers inside to make a thorough job.

The chippings or shreddings can be dealt with in two different ways too: if you have been shredding up “soft” items such as flower stalks, leaves, very light prunings then they can go straight onto the compost heap and will decompose quickly and help form a good balance of nutrients in your compost.

If you have been chipping and shredding larger woody items then it is better to leave them in a pile or separate compost bin for several months before using it as a mulch. This will allow tannins to wash out of them, which may be harmful to more tender plants. Also, an extremely important point to bear in mind is SAFETY FIRST! - these shredders are potentially very dangerous, please follow all the advice and instructions on whichever machine you choose, wear the correct safety gear, including ear protectors, and above all, be careful!

View our full range of garden shredders.

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Written by: Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting Graham Ward
seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.