Chippers and Shredders – By Craig Phillips

Autumn is around the corner and your lawns and borders may soon be covered in a carpet of dappled golden leaves. This may sound attractive to some but to most garden lovers this kind of debris needs clearing up and turning into something useful like mulch or compost, while discarded branches and twigs can be turned into wood chips for use as weed inhibitors. To make sure that you recycle as much of autumn’s cast-offs as you can, you really need to hire a leaf shredder and/or wood chipper. But the problem – as usual – is how to choose the right one for the job in hand. Firstly, you need to decide on what you want the equipment for. I have focused on Autumn, but really a shredder/chipper can be used any time of the year, for example to mash up weeds, out of date vegetables or cuttings from bushes, trees or any kind of plant.

The main criterion is whether you want to use the equipment for light work or for heavy duty shredding and chipping. Clearly, if you are only wanting to mash up leaves and tiny twigs, you do not need to go for a petrol-based machine that delivers up to 10 horsepower; an electric unit running at one horsepower will likely be sufficient. Of course, you can hire two machines – a lightweight leaf shredder and a heavy duty wood chipper if that’s what you need – but my recommendation would always be to choose a machine that saves you money by being able to perform both functions.

One thing you will certainly need to consider is where you want the groundup leaves and/or branches to go. Some machines have room underneath for fitting garden bags that collect the material while others fire it out of a chute and you need to have some way of collecting it.

When it comes to size and power, the key factor to consider is whether the machine will be able to handle the thickness of branch that you want to feed into the grinding mechanism. You don’t want to stall or damage the equipment by asking too much of it or have the inconvenience of taking it back to the hire shop to ask for a bigger model. If in doubt, go for the biggest or most powerful that you can afford or transport. It’s much better to err on the side of caution than to find yourself with an inadequate machine that does nothing but frustrate you. Also, some machines have automatic cut-outs if you overwork them which means you often have to wait some time before the unit resets itself and allows you to carry on, only for the same thing to happen over and over.

The other advantage of choosing a shredder/chipper with a large capacity chute and powerful engine is that they get through jobs much quicker than small models. So while you might want to save a few pounds by going for a more compact and easier to manoeuvre model, you could find yourself losing a few pounds because you’ve had to spend virtually all day working in the garden on a job that you thought would only take a couple of hours! Even worse, you might have to extend the hire period because you haven’t finished the task in the time you thought you would.

If in doubt, talk to the people at your favourite tool hire store and they will advise you on the best machine to suit your needs then away you go. Happy shredding! Craig Phillips is an official brand ambassador for Checkatrade. For more information please visit

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