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Garden shredder buying guide

If you’re looking for a way to tame your garden, find out how to compare garden shredders and find one that’s right for you.

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Female gardener feeding twigs and thin branches into an electric garden shredder for composting.

Quick facts about garden shredders:

  • If you (and your green bin) are struggling to cope with all the sticks, leaves and cuttings your garden produces, a garden shredder could help reduce waste and turn it into mulch you can use to nourish your plants or speed up the composting process.
  • When buying a garden shredder, you'll need to consider whether you want an impact shredder or a crushing shredder and decide if you want a petrol or electric model.
  • Prices range anywhere from $150 up to $2,000.

What is a garden shredder?

A garden shredder or chipper is a power tool that can shred your garden waste. By passing leaves, sticks, small branches and hedge trimmings through a shredder, you can reduce a large pile of garden waste into a much smaller pile of mulch, which you can then use around the garden or turn into compost.

Pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you may want to buy a garden shredder:

  • Your garden will look great.If your garden is your pride and joy and you want it to look as neat and tidy as possible, a garden shredder can make light work of sticks, leaves, branches and more.
  • You can reduce waste.Is your yard littered with piles of garden waste? Is your bin always full of trimmings, clippings, leaves and branches? A shredder can help you drastically reduce the amount of garden waste you produce, meaning less time spent trying to shove everything into the bin and fewer trips to the dump.
  • You can help your garden grow. Shredders can also turn that garden waste into mulch or compost that you can then use around your garden, giving it the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive.

On the flipside, there are also a couple of reasons why you might decide that you don't need a shredder:

  • They take up storage space. Shredders are quite large units that will take up a decent amount of space in your shed. If you're short on space, a garden shredder may not be practical.
  • They can be loud.While roller garden shredders are quieter when in use, impact shredders can make more than enough noise to annoy your neighbours.
  • Not essential for every garden.Consider how many times a year you'd be likely to use a garden shredder. If you're only going to use it two or three times a year, it might make more sense financially to simply hire a shredder for a day whenever needed.

Types of garden shredders

There are a couple of ways to distinguish between the different types of garden shredders available. First, you can choose either an electric or a petrol-powered shredder:

  • Electric garden shredders. Electric garden shredders are simple to use and provide ample shredding power for most small and medium suburban gardens. They're lightweight, quiet and more affordable than petrol options. However, they don't offer the same high level of cutting power as petrol machines, and they need to be used within reach of a power point.
  • Petrol-powered garden shredders. If you have a large yard or you regularly need to shred thicker branches, a petrol model may be the way to go. They offer more power than electric shredders and more freedom to move around your yard as needed. However, they are more expensive, heavier and require more maintenance. Also, you'll need to deal with the fumes.

Next, consider how the machine shreds garden waste:

  • Cutting. Sometimes known as rapid or impact garden shredders, these machines feature a sharp blade designed to chop debris into very fine pieces. They make quick work of your garden waste but can be quite noisy when in use and may not be as suitable for woody debris. They're fairly lightweight and easy to manoeuvre around the garden, but you'll have to use a plunger to push waste into the machine.
  • Crushing. Crushing or roller garden shredders (also known as quiet or silent garden shredders) use rigid rollers or drums to crush garden material and cut it up into little pieces. They are quieter than impact shredders, but they can get clogged when dealing with freshly cut material.

How to compare garden shredders

Before you start shopping for a garden shredder, take some time to think about how you will use the machine. For example, how big is your yard? What's the maximum thickness of the branches you'll need to cut? How often will you be shredding? What's your budget?

Here are the key factors you'll need to take into account when comparing your options:

Price

Petrol models are significantly more expensive than electric garden shredders. Electric models are generally priced between $150 and $500, but can be as much as $800. Heavy-duty petrol-powered shredders start at around the $800 mark and commonly cost more than $1,000.

Ease of use

Head in store to take a closer look at how practical the shredder will be to use in the real world. Is the feed chute at a convenient height? Are all the controls easy to reach and understand? Will you be able to operate them while wearing gloves? Can you safely access the blades to clear any blockages? Is the opening wide enough for you to easily feed in garden material? How long is the power cord – will you need an outdoor extension lead?

Cutting capacity

Cutting capacity refers to the maximum branch diameter a machine is capable of shredding. This will typically be 40mm or 45mm for electric machines, but a little more for petrol models.

Noise

Another spec worth checking is the machine's noise rating, measured in decibels. Impact shredders are louder than roller shredders and may not be the best choice if your neighbours are particularly sensitive to noise.

Additional features

  • Material throughput. If you want to know how quickly a machine will be able to process your garden waste, check the specs sheet for a material throughput or shredding capacity figure. This is measured in kilograms per hour.
  • Mulching or reduction ratio. Some manufacturers will quote a mulching or reduction ratio to give you an idea of how efficient a shredder is at cutting down garden waste. For example, a ratio of 10:1 means that for every 10 bags of garden waste you feed into the machine, you'll get 1 bag of shredded material.
  • Reverse setting SThis is a fairly standard feature designed to spit material back out of the shredder if there is ever a blockage.
  • Plunger. Some models come with a plunger to help you feed garden material into the shredder while keeping your fingers well clear.
  • Weight and dimensions. Consider the weight of the shredder to find out how easy it will be to move around your garden – they usually come with wheels for better manoeuvrability. You may also want to consider the dimensions of the shredder to ensure that it will fit in your shed or garage.
  • Collection bag. Does the shredder come with an integrated collection bag or container to catch the shredded garden waste? This will help reduce mess around your yard, and containers generally offer better durability than catching bags.
  • Warranty. Check whether the shredder comes with a warranty and if so, how long it is and exactly what it covers. Most models come with anywhere between one and five years of warranty protection.

Garden shredder safety

Safety is an essential consideration when using any garden power tool. Garden shredders can be quite dangerous if used incorrectly, so make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper and safe use.

You'll also need to wear basic safety gear (goggles, ear muffs and gloves) when using one of these machines, and ensure that there are no kids, other people or pets in the immediate area. And if you ever need to clear a blockage, make sure you fully switch off and unplug the unit before you start work.

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