Best garden shredder 2018: rid your yard of branches, leaves and Steve Buscemi

Say goodbye to garden detritus in style with the best garden shredders from under £100 to over £700

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It’s one thing hacking away at your overgrown hedges, trees and shrubbery but another when you’re then faced with an unwieldy pile of branches, twigs, leaves and other garden detritus that somehow needs to be disposed of. You could spend ages snipping all the twigs and branches to a manageable size for disposal in the green waste bin or at your local council dump. Or you could invest in the best garden shredder. 

We’ve called in cluster of well-received domestic models and put them through their paces using a variety of pruned vegetation.

What is the best garden shredder?

All five of the models tested are good machines but my top choice is the quiet and doggedly determined Bosch AXT 25 TC.   

If you're on a tight budget, the dirt-cheap B&Q Electric Garden Shredder is  surprisingly effective. 

The petrol-powered Titan 15HP Chipper Shredder, Stihl Viking GE 355 and Makita UD2500 all have their charms, too.

How to buy the best garden shredder for you 

Let’s cut to the chase. These domestic shredders aren’t like those machines the council uses when pruning trees in the street, or like the one Peter Stormare feeds Steve Buscemi into in that memorable scene from Fargo

Most of the models here won’t handle anything thicker than 45mm in diameter so you can forget stuffing in a tree trunk. You will also need to snip off stiff twigs and large stubby bits or the branch simply won’t fit through the hopper’s opening slot. 

Think hard about whether you really need a shredder in the first place and whether you have room. Many people will likely only use it once a year and the rest of the time you’ll need somewhere to store it.

There are two main types of shredder: impact and drum. Impact shredders use sharp, fast-spinning blades to cut into garden waste and can process a wider variety of materials, including most hard wood branches and fresh, moist cuttings and leaves. However, they are extremely noisy and their blades will eventually blunt if used excessively. They can also jam up if asked to process too much at a time.

Drum (or quiet) shredders tend to crush the material using a slow rotating, bladed wheel that traps plant matter against a solid plate before cutting it into little pieces. Drum shredders make far less noise but aren’t considered as effective at dealing with leafy materials.

Most shredders are equipped with a reverse switch to release trapped vegetation (it happens a lot) and some are equipped with a handy tamper to help force undisciplined branches into the portal of death. 

Be careful how you insert branches as they jiggle about violently while they’re being swallowed. If it’s a thorn-covered branch and you’re holding on to it, lacerations are a real risk. You’re advised to wear gloves and goggles or sunglasses. A stylish, hi-viz jacket is optional.

1. Bosch AXT 25 TC

The best garden shredder, pound for pound

Specifications
Weight: 30.5kgs
Power source: Mains
Cutting capacity: 45mm
Collection box: 53 litres
Reasons to buy
+Superbly efficient+Very quiet+Well designed
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy and ungainly

Bosch shredders dominate the market and with good reason. They’re very well built, efficient and generally reliable. Rather like an enormous, masticating juicer, this quiet, electric-powered 2,500 watt turbine model uses a bladed drum that spins relatively slowly under massive torque, trapping, crushing and cutting branches up to 45mm in diameter against a solid plate.

This model handles both wood and leafy material as was amply demonstrated when I fed it half a fig tree, green fruit and all. It chopped and crushed the whole thing into tiny pieces and deposited them into the box below ready for easy disposal in the garden bin or compost heap – some shredding aficionados will even spread the nutritious remains over flowerbeds.

Rather considerately of Bosch, this heavyweight model comes ready-built with the wheels already attached, so all you need to do is clip in the top hopper, ensure the 53-litre collection box is properly engaged, switch it on and shred. The top of the chute has a wider access than others in this roundup and that makes it generally easier to stuff in branches of a more unwieldy nature, while the included tamper helps release mutinous vegetation. 

Granted, it’s very top-heavy and quite tricky to move around the garden – the wheels aren’t really wide enough apart – but at least it splits in two for easier storage.

If you have a mixture of both woody and leafy materials, this Bosch is your best bet. It justifies its slightly higher price by being extremely effective, easy to use and quiet enough to not disturb the neighbours.

2. B&Q Electric Garden Shredder

Best budget shredder

Specifications
Weight: 19.5kgs
Power source: Mains
Cutting capacity: 45mm
Collection box: No
Reasons to buy
+SO cheap+Surprisingly effective+Easy to manoeuvre
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy and prone to Jamming-Requires assembly

Shredders don’t come much cheaper than this electric impact model from B&Q. There’s quite a bit of assembly required – the wheels need fitting and screws need screwing – but nothing too taxing. 

You’re not going to get Bosch-like build quality at this price but what you will get is an extremely efficient multi-talented shredder that destroys both woody and leafy material in a thrice. Just be sure to keep tree branches below the 45mm maximum diameter and snip off any extraneous large twigs or they won’t fit through the feeder hole.

The B&Q uses a fast spinning blade to cut through vegetation but larger pieces of hardwood and too many leaves will likely block the chute which means reaching for the included tamper. 

It’s quite a scary machine, since it literally slices through cuttings and branches in quite a violent manner – thankfully the blades are well out of 'arm’s way, although they will likely blunt after a few years and need to be reversed for added lifespan. 

Box-fresh, it dealt with a pile of long, thick rose branches exceptionally well, it has to be said. This thing chopped the whole lot up into small 5mm pieces pretty damn quickly with only the occasional hiccup. However, because it didn’t come with a collection hopper, I needed to spend an extra fiver on a large plastic box – B&Q do an excellent range, thankfully.

If you only do occasional pruning and don’t require the brute force of a Bosch or Titan, then this is your best starting point. It’s light enough to easily wheel around the garden, small enough for shed storage and it performed as well as some of the more expensive competition, even if I do have doubts about its longevity. 

Granted, it’s noisier than other models in this roundup, but nothing like as loud as, say, a leaf blower. Frankly, at just £65 it’s a veritable steal.

3. Stihl Viking GE 355

Multi-functional model for all garden materials

Specifications
Weight: 32kgs
Power source: Mains
Cutting capacity: 35mm
Collection box: No
Reasons to buy
+Tackles both woody and leafy stuff+Easy to move around
Reasons to avoid
-Very tall-Makes quite a racket-Deposits remnants on the lawn

Got a garden with a wild mixture of hard-wooded trees, firs, shrubs and rubbery plants? Step tight this way because this multi-functional model does the lot by dint of a unique ‘blade rotation reversal system’ that deals with both hard and soft materials. 

For leaves, twigs and palm fronds, turn the knob on the rear to the right (a leaf symbol appears) and shove some greenery into the large opening. The blades spin at high speed ripping everything to shreds. Likewise, when it comes to the harder stuff, turn the knob to the branch setting, feed in anything up to 35mm in diameter and out comes a pile of tiny wood chippings.

Again, this model doesn’t come with a collection box though it does at least feature a guard hood. I’d advise placing a garden tarpaulin underneath the exit chute so you don’t end up with a garden full of chippings and mulched leaves.

The Viking 355 is an extremely efficient shredder-cum-chipper but it costs a bit more than the Bosch and is both taller at 1.41 metres and a whole lot louder. It's also not as effective when it comes to core shredding duties.

4. Makita UD2500

Best mid-priced shredder

Specifications
Weight: 27.6kgs
Power source: Mains
Cutting capacity: 45mm
Collection box: 67 litres
Reasons to buy
+Pleasingly quiet+Large collection box
Reasons to avoid
-Struggles with moist materials-Pretty damn heavy

This smart-looking electric model is about same size and weight as the Bosch and just as well built, though some assembly is required, including fitting the wheels. 

However, it doesn’t tackle as many different materials as the Bosch and struggles with anything that has high moisture content like large leaves and soft springy branches. In other words it’s best suited to harder woods and larger branches without too much greenery.

I fed it the same type of rose branches that the cheap B&Q model made such light work of and it jammed up a few times requiring me to hit the reverse button to free up some of the leafy congestion. 

Also, it doesn’t come with a tamper which would have felt somewhat safer than using a stick to coax in some of the more rebellious stuff. It eventually swallowed the lot but closer inspection of the huge 67-litre collection bin revealed that it had simply crushed rather than cut the branches. And that meant I wasn’t able to spread the remnants over the flowerbeds.

However, it made a much better fist of dealing with a couple of 30mm hardwood branches – like the Bosch and B&Q, it accepts diameters of up to 45mm – once I'd cut off a few gnarly twigs to get the branch through the small hopper opening.

It was pretty quiet, too, which seemed to please the neighbours.

The Makita’s price falls somewhere between the Bosch and B&Q. It's a Which? Best Buy but it loses a bit of ground for me due to its relative lack of versatility. 

5. Titan 15HP Chipper Shredder

High-powered, petrol-fuelled, multi-talented behemoth

Specifications
Weight: 103kgs
Power source: Petrol
Cutting capacity: 75mm
Collection box: No
Reasons to buy
+Chips large branches+Tackles most foliage+Lots of power
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Huge and extremely heavy-Ear-shatteringly noisy

An altogether more serious proposition, this costly, petrol-driven brute annihilates anything up to 75mm in diameter. We’re talking proper tree branches here, the kind of stuff other domestic shredders fear. 

If you own your own forest, or at least have a very large garden with loads of trees and shrubs, this could well be the shredder for you. 

Just be sure you’re fit enough and have a decent sized outhouse or shed to store it in because, despite having wheels, the machine weighs 103kgs and the feed hopper is about head height. Also, it spits everything directly on to the ground so your best bet is to use a tarpaulin to collect all the chippings or you’ll make a right old mess of the lawn.

The Titan comes with two main portals. The top chute accommodates leaves and twigs up to 10mm and uses a ‘flail arm’ system to mulch them into tiny fragments. 

Look to the side and there’s a circular portal for branches up to 75mm diameter: simply shove in a branch and out comes a pile of wood chippings of near sawdust consistency. Unfortunately, the side chute only accepts straight branches so some sawing will inevitably be required.

The downside to all this is that the Titan is huge, heavy, ugly and noisy and it uses an electric-start 15hp four-stroke engine that will, at times, require some TLC. If you can stand the racket – and your closest neighbours are either a long way away, or profoundly deaf – then this beaver of the shredding community is right up your garden path.