The best garden shredders

Have a garden job in mind? From heavy-duty garden shredders to petrol garden shredders, there's more to choosing the right one than you might think

Three garden shredder products against a chipped wood background

by Emily Farquhar |

Are you in a constant battle with your neighbours about overhanging branches but unable to secure a slot at the local tip? Maybe your garden needs a big trim, but you haven't got time for dozens of trips to the recycling centre, and your green-waste bin just isn't big enough.

Trimming trees and hedges with loppers, hedge-trimmers and chainsaws is a lot of work, and clearing up and getting rid of all the clippings is time consuming.

That's where a quality, multi-purpose garden shredder comes in handy. They'll (hopefully) last you for years and magically transform your waste into enough free mulch (compost) to feed your entire neighbourhood.

With a variety of garden shredders and chippers to choose from, it’s important you know what’s out there and their differences before you purchase one. The cheapest isn’t necessarily the best, but depending on its purpose, maybe the extra investment is exactly what's needed.

What is a garden shredder?

A garden shredder is a clever piece of machinery, usually housed in a shed, that converts bulky waste into shreds and woodchip in an effortless manner. Some have a blade mechanism to slice twigs and branches, others (more robust ones) use a ridge roller to pull through the waste and crush it. But we'll go into this in more detail later.

The key differences are size and price, with the larger models being more competent in tackling the big stuff (thicker branches) and usually with a mounted bag or box included. And, ‘the bigger, the better’ - the bigger the capacity, the less emptying you have to do.

Garden shredders also tend to jam, often due to soft blades, or blades that can’t cope with the load being pushed in at once. It will happen to them all, even the good ones; it's something you’ll have to deal with when the time comes.

What are the two types of garden shredders?

There are only two types of shredders that you should be aware of: impact and roller.

Impact shredders (also referred to as rapid shredders) are the cheapest, the loudest but the lightest. Also, the most aggressive! The blade mechanism with the disc or cassette spinning at a high speed slices the waste into manageable pieces and the machine, commonly used for leaves and lighter loads, is less likely to jam. My one piece of advice for an impact shredder is to purchase one with two blades so the machine remains sharp for longer, and with a regular-shaped hopper to make the process easier and quicker.

Roller shredders, on the other hand, are pricier, heavier (ensure you can handle the weight and adjust the gap between the plate and the roller) but a lot quieter. The ridged roller with a vertical rotating wheel against a flat plate crushes bigger woody pieces of waste by drawing the material in and can do a lot of it in no time. One disadvantage is that they do get blocked by loose pieces that seem to creep in from time to time.

Should I purchase a petrol or electric garden shredder?

This is another difference to keep in mind. If you have a medium-sized suburban garden and go for an electric shredder, ensure the length of the cable is suitable for your garden. No stress if it does turn out to be shorter than expected as an outdoor extension cable will do the trick. And, if you are in a bigger garden and don’t have access to an outdoor power supply then a petrol model would be a no-brainer, but this powerful beast comes at a cost (pricier and needs servicing).

Garden shredder features you should know:

To ensure you purchase the most suitable machine, the following questions should be considered:

• Do I need a collection box for shredded waste?

• Do I need wheels on my shredder to move it around?

• Can I access the roller safely and at ease to minimise any blockages?

• Is a tamper or reverse setting necessary to help with any blockages?

• Do I have all the basic safety equipment (gloves, goggles and ear protection) to operate the garden shredder?

How much should I spend on a garden shredder?

Depending on the need for a shredder and its purpose, the prices vary significantly. Generally speaking, they start at around £100 and can go up to £500 based on the make and its features. Unless they are on sale, anything outside of these prices need thorough research. I would also recommend spending a little more on your garden shredder, as this is not something you will be likely to replace soon.

How to use a garden shredder?

Watch these tutorials to get a better understanding of how to use garden shredders and garden chippers:

How to use an electrical shredder

How to use a chipper shredder

More FAQs:

What is the best garden shredder for conifers?

The best garden shredders to tackle conifers are models with more than one blade. In this case, as outlined above, I would go for an impact garden shredder which is less likely to get blocked and a cheaper option over the more heavy-duty roller shredder.

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Emily Farquhar is the Business Development Executive for Bauer and produces commercial and branded content for WhatsTheBest, Heat, Closer, Grazia and more across beauty, tech, and lifestyle.

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