Safe shredding

Safety equipment
Photo: Penny Woodward

We’ve finally had a few fine days (really not complaining, I do understand how tough gardeners and farmers are finding it in parts of NSW, Qld and Vic) so I have been out in the garden catching up with weeding but also doing lots of pruning and generally clearing out and cutting back. I should have done this sooner, but better now than not at all.

My average-sized garden is full of trees, big shrubs and vigorously growing perennials, and a couple of times a year I prune back anything that is getting too big, building a huge pile. Then I drag out my petrol-driven shredder and get to work. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but shredding is one of the most satisfying things I do in the garden.

Petrol-driven shredders are a big investment as they range in price from $1000–$2000. There are a couple of excellent Australian-made shredders and if you want to test before you buy, you can hire from a local machinery company to see how effective they are. If the price is too high, just hire when needed, or you might want to get together with neighbours to share the purchase and use. Mine has definitely been worth the investment and I’ve had no problems with it over nearly 10 years, until recently when I inadvertently dropped my secateurs into it. These damaged the base plate, so that needed to be replaced. Fortunately I had a spare pair of secateurs as there was not much left of the pair that went into the shredder. They were, sort of, well ….shredded.

Some shredding tips (apart from don’t drop your secateurs into your shredder).

Branches are much easier to shred when they are green, but preferably not wet from rain. Too much moisture can produce mush instead of mulch, which clogs the machine.

The only things I don’t put through are very dry thick pieces of timber (they blunt the blades), and long vines (they can wrap around the flailing blades and stall the machine). When pruning climbers I cut vines into short pieces before feeding into the shredder.

Some shredders don’t deal well with palm leaves, so if you have a lot, buy a shredder that copes with them.

If you are not sure about something you want to shred, then try a small piece first.

As I can no longer find anyone who recycles corks, I put my corks through the shredder and the pieces go back into the garden.

Because these shredders are big, heavy machines they are more dangerous to use than electrical shredders. So it’s important to wear safety glasses, earmuffs and gloves, and keep small children and dogs away.

Using the mulch.

At the end of a couple of hour’s work I have a fabulous pile of mulch made up of shredded leaves, stems and wood. Because my garden is full of scented plants, this mulch is often quite high in strongly scented oils. So I spread it thinly onto garden beds, or mix it into compost, or use it more thickly on paths. It’s lovely and soft to walk on and suppresses weeds. I love the fact that all my leafy and coarse woody mulch comes from the garden and goes back into the garden.

By: Penny Woodward

First published: August 2019

Related topics

Gardening Basics, Backyard, shredding, Mulch, safety, What to do now
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