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What is a Leaf Shredder?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Leaf shredders are handy devices that make it possible to turn dead leaves into mulch. The mulch in turn can be used to provide nutrients for flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, and for a lawn. While the electric leaf shredder is one of the more common models used around the home, gasoline powered shredders are often used for commercial work and in cases where the volume of leaves to shred is significantly higher than the usual residential yard.

Sometimes referred to as a leaf eater or leaf mulcher, the typical leaf shredder is very simple in design. On one side of the device, an open chamber makes it possible to dump loose leaves into the machine for processing. Inside, a series of serrated blades chop the leaves into small and more or less uniform pieces. The shredded leaves then leave the main chamber and are expelled into a waiting receptacle or into a detachable bag that makes it easy to transport the mulched leaves to another location.

Leaf mulchers are available in several different sizes. A lightweight leaf shredder is likely to use electricity as a power source. The smaller models are ideal for handling most types of leaves that shed in the autumn of the year, such as oak, elm, and pecan tree leaves. They also can be used to shred small leaves from dead shrubs.

Larger leaf shredders are often capable of processing small branches along with leaves. This makes it possible to quickly dispose of the fallen branches of softer woods such as pecan branches. The larger shredders sometimes make use of a gasoline motor that has more horsepower than simple electric garden tools of this type, making it easier to dispose of hardier leaves and slightly larger branches.

It is possible to purchase a leaf shredder in just about any retail outlet that sells garden power equipment. Lawn and garden retailers often carry a wider selection than outlets such as discount retailers. Home stores are also great sources for yard tools of this type, and may include heavy-duty leaf shredders along with smaller and less expensive designs. Commercial yard tools, including shredders that are used by landscape companies are also available at industry supply businesses.

If purchasing a leaf shredder is not feasible, it is also possible to rent various types of shredders from local equipment rental businesses. Normally, the store associates can help in the selection of the right size shredder if the buyer is not sure of what equipment would adequately handle the job he or she has in mind.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On May 21, 2012

I had never heard of a leaf shredder before reading this article. I had always just used my lawn mower to shred leaves in the fall, because I can cover a huge area in just a couple of minutes.

It would be convenient to have something that is designed specifically to shred leaves, though. That way, I wouldn't have to use gas to power up my mower.

Also, it would be really awesome to have the shredded leaves shot directly into a bag for me. The tedious part of using my mower to shred leaves is having to bend over and rake all of them into a large trash bag. I would probably save myself from muscle soreness with a shredder, too.

By Kat919 — On May 21, 2012

Another nice use for a leaf shredder or mulcher, whether you buy or rent, is for making compost. I actually have a neighbor who lets me use hers in exchange for compost for her garden.

Before we came up with that arrangement, I used to always have trouble coming up with "brown" matter, like dry shredded leaves, cardboard, or sawdust, to balance out the "green" matter - the leftovers from my garden. I have a separate tub where I keep the shredded leaves and twigs until it is time to add them to the compost pile.

By fify — On May 20, 2012

@turkay1-- You might want to read some reviews before deciding on one.

Something most people don't pay attention to while buying but that is important is how easy the shredder gets going. Of course, that's only an issue if it is a gas shredder. I had one several years ago that was so difficult to start. I would spend twenty minutes just to get the thing going. That's not fun.

The one I have now is excellent, starts on the first or second pull and it's really heavy duty. It's a chipper shredder in one, so I can shred leaves and chip twigs and branches. It's no problem if things are wet or if some stones fall through.

If you buy a really cheap one, you're probably going to end up replacing it every year. I suggest you pay more and get a heavy duty one. It'll pay itself off, believe me.

By burcidi — On May 20, 2012

@turkay1-- It's kind of hard to get all of that in one leaf shredder - mulcher. The shredders that work with gas tend to be better and bigger. And you won't have many problems if you end up putting twigs or wet leaves in it. But they're also more expensive and not as easy to store.

All the small ones are mainly electric. They're easy to store and more affordable, but you will more than likely have issues with clogging and it does wear out and break if twigs, wood chips or small rocks enter the compost. I also find it hard to move around with the electric cord.

You just have to decide what your priority is. If you're going to be really careful with what you put in the shredder and would rather not pay so much, go for a small electric one. If you want something that's going to last longer but cost more, go for a gas one.

By candyquilt — On May 19, 2012

I'm looking to buy a small garden leaf shredder to use with leaves in my yard. I have two large elm trees in the yard and they are so many leaves in the fall. I like gardening and I've seen my neighbor use a shredder to make mulch which he uses for gardening. I think it's a great way to put leaves to good use.

What kind of a leaf shredder would you suggest for me? I think a small one will be just fine and I don't want to spend too much either.

I heard that some shredders get worn out very fast if you put wet leaves in it. Do I need a specific type of leaf shredder to avoid this problem?

I suspect I'll only be shredding dry leaves, but if some of them are moist, I don't want the shredder to break down.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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