As the summer draws to a close and the leaves start turning yellow, our thoughts inevitably turn towards the large-scale garden clean-up that awaits us come fall season. While cleaning up leaves is a given, oftentimes the mess in our yards comprises of a lot more. Hence, people who buy the best leaf shredders by assuming that “one size fits all” often end up with implements jammed due to thick branches, wet leaves and myriad types of garden debris. To help you avoid such gardening fiascos and attendant time and money burn, we’ve compiled a short guide that will not only tell you which are the best products in the market today, but help you decide which product will suit your garden in particular.
Hence, we begin with a short study of the types of leaf shredders available (and where they can be used), before moving onto short reviews of the star products and conclude by answering the questions folks across the country tend to have.
Types of Leaf Shredders
The evolution of shredders has led to their taking on a number of functions previously carried out by other products while gradually reducing weight and bulk. Modern shredders, by virtue of this evolution, can be classed according to the functions they perform and the ease of carrying and fuelling them.
Wood Chipper Leaf Shredder
When leaves fall during storms or by animal activity, branches inevitably follow. If you live in an area that suffers from such problems, you’d be well-advised to purchase a leaf shredder that can handle branches of diameters of at least 2 to 2 ½ inches. Since such thick branches cannot be drawn into bags using standard leaf vacuum units, wood chipper leaf shredders tend to have a large opening for feeding the leaves and branches. While leaves are shredded, the branches come out as coin-sized wood pieces from a funnel-shaped exit. Most shredders have the option of fitting a bag onto this funnel for convenient collection of mulch and wood pieces. An added advantage would be the ability to carry the shredder on a trolley since the engines on wood chippers tend to be quite heavy.
In order to produce compost, leaves and garden debris need to be reduced to as fine a mulch as possible, since this allows greater amounts of mulch to be stuffed into compost cans. To this end, leaf shredders geared towards making compost tend to have powerful motors and shredders that reduce the incoming leaves into very small pieces. Such machines typically have powerful vacuum functions as well in order to ensure that even large leaves are taken up and chopped finely.
For Wet Leaves
If your area is prone to rain or is near a river, your garden may turn into a soggy mess more than once a year. In such cases, you’d need a wet leaf shredder that would easily turn your wet leaves into mulch without clogging the instrument. Such shredders differ from ordinary dry leaf shredders in that their blades are made up of titanium or titanium alloy, while some of the cheaper dry leaf shredders will make do with plastic blades. Further, the width of the vacuum funnel would be somewhat larger in order to accommodate leaves that stick to each other. Lastly, such shredders would have a powerful motor rated at 12-13Amp/2600W-3000W in order to pull leaves away from damp soil and into the blades of the unit.
Electric Leaf Shredder
Electric leaf shredders can be operated using batteries or by connecting the unit to a power source. Battery-powered units tend to be light and highly portable, but typically lack the muscle needed for handling wet leaves and wood. Units powered by a source tend to be light and powerful but involve dragging a wire across large swathes of the lawn. To avoid this, many users carry a portable battery from which the shredder draws power, thus solving the problem of a power source.
Gas Leaf Shredder
Gas leaf shredders are far heavier than their electric counterparts due to the need to carry along specifically designed cans of gas. Modern gas units have these cans built into the product, but this does not save much by way of weight. On the plus side, these shredders can achieve a lot more power and speed than their electric counterparts, and do not sit idle when storms occur and power outages follow.
Best Rated Leaf Shredder Reviews
Now that we are familiar with the different types of leaf shredders, it is time to take a look at the best products in the market. Instead of covering the same bases with each product however, we’ve decided to focus on the best product for different categories of lawn owners.
Handheld leaf shredder – Husqvarna 125BVx 28cc 2-Cycle Gas Powered 170 MPH Blower/Vac
As you’d guess, the reason this Husqvarna product makes it to our list is because its streamlined design ensures that the not-so-light unit can be carried easily. This design includes a blower/vac system that keeps the direction of air flow parallel to the handle, thus reducing rotation and unnecessary wrist strain. Further, the blowing tube can be adjusted as per your preferences, such that you are always in full control of the direction of the flow.
Interestingly however, within this ergonomic design is a powerful 1.1HP motor that, as we found, could remove everything from acorns to moderately thick branches. The titanium-edged blades prevent any clogging, even when the garden is moderately wet. Combined with the quick start and easy availability of fuel, these ensure that even when you’re not working in ideal conditions (or in your own garden), you would not have any issues. Combined with a decent 2 year warranty, these make this product the best handheld consumer unit in the market today.
Husqvarna 125BVx Video
Cheap leaf shredder – Flowtron LE-900 The Ultimate Mulcher Electric Leaf Shredder
Sidestepping many of the common trade-offs involved in budget units through immaculate design, this Flowtron manages to handle everything from grass clippings to wet and heavy leaves with ease. This is courtesy of a powerful motor and a large feeding area for the leaves. Compared to other products in this range, this unit manages an admirable 30:1 reduction ratio in case of leaves. Such ratio is achieved even under moderate stress since the unit is remarkably sturdy given its price point.
While assembly can be a bit tricky when done alone, it is not overtly difficult and the base works well under moderately dry conditions. Further, since this is an electric-driven unit, it weighs in at just 17 pounds and can be operated without any additional gear (except safety gear of course). With adequate warranty and easy availability of spare parts, these features make this Flowtron unit one of the best for the consumer on a budget.
Leaf Shredder Chipper – Patriot Products CSV-3100B 10 HP Briggs & Stratton Gas-Powered Leaf Shredder/ Wood Chipper
As we mentioned above, wood chippers need additional motor muscle and to this end this Patriot Products offering comes with a 10HP engine. Combined with the direct drive technology used by the company, this engine ensures that the fuel spent is well compensated for by rapid chopping of leaves and cutting of branches, as many homeowners in hilly areas will testify. While larger Y-shaped branches do need prior processing, smaller Y-shaped ones are easily handled by this powerful beast.
In terms of fuel consumption, users noted that the unit was remarkably efficient, even when handling wet branches and/or pine cones. Startup usually occurred at the very first pull, allowing the unit to function rapidly in case of inclement weather. Most reassuringly however, the unit’s internal combustion and drive systems ensure that there are no loose parts that need to be assembled or replaced at regular intervals. Combined with the decent warranty, these make the unit a great purchase for those seeking a sturdy shredder capable of chipping wood.
Leaf Shredder/Blower – Toro 51609 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed (up to 235mph speed) Electric Leaf Vacuum/ Blower with Metal Impeller
One of the lightest leaf blowers, this product weighs just 10 pounds and given its elongated design, can be carried in one hand with ease. Despite this low weight, the product manages to blow everything from acorns to dead branches with ease, even if the yard is drenched, courtesy its 235mph speed. The nozzle of the unit is narrow enough to prevent large branches from clogging it. While this may prevent the unit from shredding such branches, it should be remembered that large branches need dedicated wood chippers and anyhow cannot be handled by handheld blowers.
Being an electric shredder/blower, the startup is fast and there are no hassles involved in moving it, as long as your garden is of moderate size. Output is equally impressive since Toro has used magnesium-serrated metal blades. With a 2-year warranty a large Toro bag included, these features make the Toro 51609 the best shredder/blower combo for the average homeowner.
Leaf Shredder Vacuum – WORX WG509 Electric TriVac Blower/Mulcher/Vacuum
The utility of a leaf vacuum depends a lot on the ability of the vacuum tube to draw out leaves and other debris. To this end, this WORX product comes with a special design that manages to reach difficult corners of your yard/patio without the need for a plethora of attachments. Once the leaves are drawn in, the metal blade assembly of the mulcher allows for a 18:1 mulch ratio. This ratio, surprisingly, does not vary much even when you make use of the multiple speed settings when getting around tight corners.
While the unit is not cordless, the cord length is sufficient for covering the average yard. Neither does the unit cause fatigue since it weighs only 8.6 pounds (bag weight excluded). Going beyond the average definition of utility, WORX has even provided one-step access to the impeller should there be need to clean it quickly before mulching/vacuuming again. Combined with an industry-leading 3-year warranty, these features make this WORX product a great solution regardless of whether you simply want to clean your yard or make mulch/compost.
Now that we know what the best products there are for different categories of users and lawns/yards, let us disambiguate some of the most common terms and techniques involved in the art of leaf shredding/vacuuming/blowing.
What is a leaf shredder?
A. A leaf shredder is an implement that puts leaves through a set-up called the impeller. The blades of the impeller chop the leaves into small pieces. These pieces are usually collected in a bag or thrown out into the yard to act as mulch or compost.
What is the best leaf shredder?
While the definition of “best” would of course vary from person to person, there are some characteristics that the best shredder should have. These are –
• High leaf to mulch ratio (defined in bags of leaves : bags of mulch)
• Speed of mulching should be high
• Multi-speed options
• Portability and/or movability
• Ability to manoeuvre around bends and under chairs/cars etc.
• Low fuel/electricity consumption
How does a leaf shredder work?
A leaf shredder contains either a vacuum tube that draws in the leaves or an opening through which the user manually pours the leaves. If vacuum is used, the force of the vacuum pushes the leaves through the impeller, causing them to be chopped and pushed out into the yard or into a bag. In case of manual units, the leaves fall directly onto the impeller, with there being an internal mechanism to push them out from the side or bottom.
How to use a leaf shredder?
To use a leaf shredder
• Connect the leaf shredder to a power supply (electric shredder) or fill the fuel tank (gas shredder).
• Attach a bag to the shredder if you wish to collect the output in a bag.
• Take the unit into the yard and start it up.
• Use the leaf vacuum (either attached or separate) to gather up leaves in the vicinity.
• Pour these leaves into the shredder (manual) or allow them to move through the impeller (hybrid shredder/vac units).
• The shredded leaves will collect in the bag (if the unit comes with one).
• Stop the unit and move to a different part of the lawn/patio and continue.
Where to buy a leaf shredder?
Given the limited number of units that may be available in your local market, it is best to go in for online purchase of shredders. Websites like Amazon provide a huge catalogue of products from which to choose, along with hundreds of reviews of each. While you could spend months going through each and every Amazon offering, you could alternatively choose to save yourself time and effort by heading to leafmulcherhq.com, where you will find expert reviews of top products and guides to help you make an informed choice.
By means of conclusion, it may suffice to say that the accumulation of leaves in your yard is a result of the forces of nature, and these forces tend to be unpredictable. Hence, it is always wise to plan in advance. Hence, if you know that your area is prone to hurricanes even though none has visited in the last 2-3 years, you’d do well to stock your garage with a powerful wood chipper so as to handle the huge amount of leaves and branches that would accumulate after a hurricane. Similarly, planning for torrential rains is ideal if you live in an area with a moderately tropical climate. Once you have chosen your priorities in this manner and have availed yourself of the information provided above, you can rest assured that come what may, you will be able to keep your yard clean and tidy all year round, year after year.