Yards can create large piles of organic debris. Between the vegetable and flower gardens, and the autumn leaves, a homeowner can find herself stuffing dozens of bags with litter. Most of what is put out on the curb for disposal can be easily reused as mulch or compost if it's shredded to much smaller pieces by the right equipment. A stand-alone shredder can easily do the task for a reasonable-sized yard. Whether rented for a day, or bought for permanent use, a shredder makes the yard neater and more productive.
How They Work
Shredders work by chopping the organic debris into smaller pieces. They may use grinders that crush the material, or blades that cut. Some have some combination of the two. Smaller shredders use a spinning cord of nylon rope similar to a weed-eater. These are normally for leaves and soft debris.
Units powered by electricity are usually on the smaller, less expensive side. They are limited to only being used when a source of power is nearby. If you are going to do extensive shredding it is best to find the largest motor available.
Other, more powerful shredders, have gasoline engines similar to those of a lawnmower or snowblower. They need the same type of maintenance, with the proper oil and gasoline levels checked periodically. They tend to be very noisy and heavy.
Larger machines may be labeled "chipper/shredders" and are able to handle even small limbs of up to several inches. These are great for clearing out land but are impractical for smaller homeowners to buy because of their size and cost. Most grinding or cutting shredders do fine with small limbs under 1/2 inch in diameter, hedge clippings and vining plants such as tomatoes and tomatillos.
Using a Shredder
A shredder, like all power equipment, is dangerous if not used properly. Always use eye and ear protection, and wear safety gloves. Make sure the shredder is balanced properly, and never overload the container with too much debris or too big of pieces. Clean away the material as it is being shredded to avoid jamming the outlet. Ensure the machine is turned off and disconnected from any power before beginning any work on it, or tying to clean out an obstacle. Always check the readiness of the shredder before using. Replace any worn blades, cords, belts and other pieces.
Recommended Brand Names
Shredders are available at almost any hardware or garden store. According to the reviewers at ReviewCentre.com as of 2010 the Powerforce Impact Shredder 2500w and the Stihl SH 55 Petrol Vacuum Shredder both rated 5 stars out of 5. The Atco Shredder 2000 and the Bosch AXT Rapid 2200w Shredder both rated 4 1/2 stars.