With this year's dead bits hacked out, your garden is now trimmed and spruced in readiness for next spring. But what'll you do with all those cuttings? Or perhaps you have a body to dispose of? Either way, that's where the best garden shredders come in.
To assist you, we’ve called in cluster of well-received domestic models and put them through their paces using a variety of pruned vegetation. And it's okay; we were joking about disposing of bodies. These are domestic machines and nowhere near powerful enough.
What is the best garden shredder?
All seven of the models tested are good machines but top choice is the quiet and doggedly determined Bosch AXT 25 TC which is as efficient as it is remarkably quiet.
If you're on a tighter budget, the keenly-priced Einhell GH-KS 2440 is surprisingly effective even if it does scream like a banshee.
The petrol-powered Titan 15HP Petrol Chipper Shredder Mulcher, the mid-priced Bosch AXT RAPID 2200, the tall-standing Stihl GHE 355 and chunky Makita UD2500 all have their charms, too.
How to buy the best garden shredder for you
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.
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.
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.
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 mulches 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 branches or they won’t fit through the feeder portal.
The 2,000-watt Einhell uses a pair of 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, mind, since it literally slices through cuttings and branches in quite a violent and exceedingly noisy manner (thank heavens the blades are well out of ’arm’s way). Thankfully, a motor circuit breaker switch cuts in to protect it from overloading.
The Einhell performed surprisingly well when fed a pile of long, thick rose branches, chopping the whole lot up into small 5mm pieces with only the occasional hiccup. Although it’s equipped with a discharge funnel, you will need to place a sheet of tarpaulin or a large plastic trug (B&Q do an excellent range, btw) underneath the chute to catch all the clippings.
If you only do occasional pruning and don’t require the brute force of a Bosch or Titan, then this is a good budget-priced starting point. It’s light enough to easily wheel around the garden, small enough for shed storage and it performed better than some of the more expensive competition.
If you can’t afford the all-conquering Bosch AXT 25 TC, give this cheaper but equally useful alternative a whirl. It’s a lot more mobile for start though you will need a box, tarpaulin or garden trug (one of those handy round soft plastic garden tidies that garden centres sell) underneath it to collect the ejected detritus.
The Rapid 2200 uses tough laser-cut blades to slice through vegetation (preferably of the harder, drier variety) in a thrice. It’ll happily swallow branches up to 40mm in diameter though you may need to trim a few stems in order to feed those branches of a more ungainly persuasion into the hopper.
This model is quite reminiscent of the much cheaper B&Q model we’re quite smitten with above. But, given it’s a Bosch with a whopping 2200 watt motor attached, we (perhaps ill advisedly) assume it will last quite a bit longer. But don’t take our word for it.
Got a garden with a mixture of hard-wooded trees, firs, shrubs and rubbery plants? Step tight this way because this tall-standing, 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, flick the switch on the front 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 ready for the compost heap, the borders or the green wheelie bin.
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 Stihl GHE 355 is an extremely efficient shredder-cum-chipper but it costs over £100 more than the Bosch and, at 1.41 metres, is taller and a whole lot louder. But, hey, it’s a Stihl so you can safely expect it to shred till the cows come home.
Dirty Pro Tools probably had a massive laugh after they came up with their name, but it is now dawning on them that they are stuck with it forever.
Never mind, their 'dirty' garden shredder may or may not be 'pro' but it is equipped with a powerful 2,500 watt engine that should be able to shred most things short of a crowbar.
Users queue up to applaud the way this cheap ’n’ chunky chaff chewer gulps down branches up to 40cm in diameter and then farts them out into a large 50-litre box as little wooden chips.
Ironically, the more seemingly lightweight likes of leaves can cause it to choke, splutter and come to a halt, so stick to the heavy stuff. You can clear blockages easily enough by unscrewing a knob and gaining access to the blades. I'd advise doing this with the machine switched off, but it's a free country.
As is the case with most shredders, you’ll save a lot of hassle by just getting the ol' leaf blower out, assembling them in a neat pile, then bagging them up.
At this price you’re not going to be getting the best quality components and, sure enough, one common online complaint with this shredder is that its blades blunt quickly. On the other hand (which I thankfully still have), to get something that shreds as well as this for a shade over £100 is quite a rare treat.
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.
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.