Garden Shredders and Tips on Garden Shredding
Tips on Garden Shredding
A shredder will transform a heap of prunings, hedge clippings and other garden waste that is too tough for composting into a neat pile of chips, and is ideal for the compost heap or for using as a surface mulch.
Shredding reduces the need for bonfires and trips to the rubbish dump and allows recycling of rich sources of organic matter and plant foods. These benefits, however, must be set against the use of energy to run the shredder, the noise, the time taken to shred material and the cost of purchase.
What can be shredded?
The most suitable materials for shredding are those that are fairly rigid, such as conifer and other prunings and Brussels sprout stems.
Softer materials are more likely to clog the system, especially in the smaller models. Domestic shredders can cope with branches approximately 2.5-4cm (1-2in) in diameter, although more powerful models can take material up to about 7.5cm (3in) thick.
Buying or hiring a garden shredder
There is a good selection of various types of garden shredders now available on the Market and, increasingly, for hire.
Before purchasing a garden shredder, consider how much material your garden produces that can only be recycled if shredded. Buying a garden shredder is most appropriate for medium to large gardens with a number of hedges and shrubs that require regular. Small gardens are unlikely to produce enough material to justify the purchase.
Consider also the noise factor. Garden shredders can be extremely noisy, especially where there are walls and buildings to reflect the sound.
Hiring a garden shredder may be a more practical option than buying one. A great deal of material that could be shredded does not have to be, so the occasional hire of a machine may be all you need. ‘This way you have the use of a larger model than you are likely to buy — which will shred larger items, and at a greater speed too.
Choosing a garden shredder
The following factors are important to consider when selecting a garden shredder:
Choose the biggest model you can afford. Small models can be frustratingly slow and may be of little value.
Petrol or electric?
Electric models are quieter but petrol ones are more portable, faster and more powerful. There are no hand-powered models available.
Rate of throughput
How quickly will it shred? Models of the same power may vary. Maximum size of material Check that this meets your requirements.
How easy is it to move?
Shredders, especially the smaller models, tend to clog up quite regularly. Check how long it takes to dismantle the machine, clear the blades and reconstruct it.
It is important that this suits you, for shredding can be a time-consuming activity.
Check that a bag or basket can be set under the outlet to collect the shreddings.
Hints on using a shredder
- Always wear tough gloves and goggles; ear protectors are also advisable.
- Have a sturdy stick handy to push material down into the shredder.
- Avoid stones and as both will rapidly blunt the blades.
- Alternate softer and woodier material to reduce the risk of clogging.
- Take it slowly; do not try to force too much material through the shredder at once.
- Always use electric shredders with a socket that has a circuit-breaker fitted.
- Cover cable with carpet or similar to prevent anyone tripping over it.
- Make sure the machine is empty before switching it off or the blades will jam when it is restarted.
Using shredded material
Shredded green material and soft prunings are best processed through a compost heap, mixed with other ingredients. They will compost very rapidly.
Woodier shreddings, apart from those from conifers and other evergreens, can be used fresh as a mulch around perennial plants, where the soil is unlikely to be disturbed. They may also be heaped up to mature before use. Such a heap may well heat up, and the colour of the shreddings will darken slightly.
Conifer and other evergreen shreddings may contain toxins that could inhibit plant growth. They may be used fresh to mulch paths and other non-growing areas, but should be composted for several months before use on growing plants. They may be added to a compost heap or heaped up on their own.
Other ways of dealing with wooden waste
Bonfires are, generally, a waste of valuable resources. The smoke produced is a pollutant which is bad for the health, and for neighbourly relationships! For these reasons, generally speaking, bonfires are not recommended in the organic garden.
There are times, though, when a bonfire may be necessary — to dispose of diseased woody material, for example. The bonfire should be quick and hot, producing the minimum of smoke. Have one on a windy day for quick burn and rapid dispersal; this can be achieved by burning only material that has had plenty of time to dry out. Never burn wet wood and green weeds.
Wood ash contains useful plant foods, but in a very soluble form. Add it to the compost heap before it is rained on.
If you have a spare corner in the garden, woody material can be simply heaped up and left to decay as woodpiles for wildlife. This can take many years, but the heap will be a source of food and a safe refuge for wild creatures in the meantime.