With the current and ever growing pressure on landfill sites in the United States it has become every gardeners responsibility to make best use of the garden waste they produce.
Critical to this effort is finding a way to turn common garden refuse such as grass leaves and twigs into usable compost material, and in recent years this has become a much simpler task with the development of the small leaf shredder.
A small leaf shredder is a relatively new innovation, evolving from the larger industrial power tools used to chop and chip large wood material such as branches and logs.
A leaf shredder does not require the cutting and shredding power of the best wood chippers/shredders, but takes the same principles and basic design and incorporates it into a much smaller portable vacuum unit, very similar in look to a lawnmower with a chute attachment. In addition many shredders will include an entry point for manually inserting small branches which would not be picked up by the vacuum. Some of the larger units also incorporate a funnel which allows leaves to be raked directly into the machine rather than requiring the vacuum.
The unit is pushed around the garden sucking up all the leaves and small timber debris and chops and shreds into an attacked disposal bag, perfect for adding to your compost heap. The leaves which are chopped and shredded break down into compost much easier and quicker than whole leaves and so in addition to reducing their volume by more than 10 times the composting breakdown occurs much faster.
A small leaf shredder is different from the larger chipper units in that it needs smaller rotating blades to shred the leaves. The power required to shred this delicate material is also very low compared to the larger machines which need large blades and significant horsepower for chopping branches and larger pieces of wood.
Most small leaf shredders will be electrically powered, the blades spinning from the moment the power is switched on, and only stopping when the power is switched off. This is in contrast to the larger units which will generally be gasoline powered and will have motors and a clutch keeping the cutting and chipping action isolated from the motor power.
Internally a small leaf shredder contains a screen which only lets material that has been shredded to a small enough size to pass through. Screens can often be replaced with various sizes to control how fine the shredding action is. Naturally the screens will occasionally clog, especially if the leaves are wet, but in general the shredders operate smoothly and efficiently.
With growing environmental concerns the small leaf shredder has become a must buy tool for many modern gardeners, no longer just the preserve of those with very large gardens.