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The ultimate guide to garden shredders: the eco way to recycle your plot

Six shredders put to the test
Shredding woody stems and prunings is the eco way to recycle your plot and will give you the perfect soil conditioner as well, says Jean Vernon Credit:  christopher Jones

If you pay the “Green Tax” to have waste removed from your property, a shredder is a sensible ­investment. Composted garden shreddings make the ­perfect soil conditioner – when used as a mulch, they add vital organic matter to the soil, feeding plants, worms, mini-beasts and microbes. A good supply of mulch year-round reduces the need to water, weed and feed, which saves you energy and money, and a shredder also reduces the need for smoky bonfires.

We took six shredders (two of each type, see right) and put them to the test with the help of the gardeners at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset, led by head gardener James Cross. Read our thoughts on each one below. 


Technical know-how: the three 
main types of 
garden shredder

Impact chipper

An electric shredder that uses a fast-revolving plate fitted with a blade that virtually cheese grates garden waste at high speed. They can be noisy (look for sound-insulated models), but are easy to manoeuvre and a good option for small to medium gardens.

Quiet drum shredder

An electric shredder that uses a heavy roller and blade system that cuts and crushes as it revolves. It makes mini logs out of the crushed material that have a larger surface area for microbes to work on (better for composting). These machines tend to be heavy and are not designed to move far. A good option for small to medium gardens.

A crab apple tree in autumnal mode Credit: GAP Photos

Petrol chipper

These are ideal for larger gardens with thicker branches and larger quantities to deal with. They are heavy to manoeuvre and large to store, but offer a powerful and fast solution to piles of prunings.

The Shredders

Impact chippers

NEW Stihl GHE 105, £279

Stihl GHE 105 Credit: Christopher Jones

The 2,200W motor chips material of up to 35mm diameter. Reversible blades. Soundproofed chute for quieter operation. Weight 20kg, 10m black cable, noise level 104dB. Optional collection box, £27, and personal protection equipment (PPE) available. Two-year warranty. Made in Austria (stihl.co.uk; 01276 417678).

Likes: Powerful in use; well-made, nice design and solid. Easy to shred different materials. Surprisingly quiet. Coped really well with a wide range of materials – woody, herbaceous and leaves – shredding them into a pile of small chippings. A useful cloverleaf chute directs hard, woody prunings one way with a separate slot for softer herbaceous material. The start and stop are touch buttons and very easy to use. Easy to wheel around.

Dislikes: No collection box – it’s an optional extra. Had a tendency to spit woody stems back up the chute. Thicker wood needs to be straight to feed into the hopper.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦♦

Convenience: ♦♦♦

Value for money: ♦♦♦♦

Verdict: Best for urban gardens with herbaceous and woody material. Powerful, light and compact.

Ryobi RSH2545B, £168

Ryobi RSH 2545B Credit:  Christopher Jones

The 2,500W motor has a 45mm cutting capacity. Two reversible hardened steel blades, safety plunger to push material towards the blades and 40-litre collection box, 6m orange cable. Weight 13.4kg. Noise level 106.5dB. Three-year warranty. Made in China; from B&Q and Homebase (uk.ryobitools.eu; 
01628 894400).

Likes: This is a well-made, substantial machine. It was relatively easy to assemble with 
all tools supplied. Self-feeding and it has a reverse mode for any blockages. Shredded woody stems, herbaceous material and leaves finely and quickly. Dealt well with thicker hardwood. Wheels made it easy to manoeuvre. Good safety features – it won’t operate without the collection 
box in place.

Dislikes: Needs some assembly, which requires two people. Noisy in use. Thicker stems need to be straight to pass through shredder. The collection box wasn’t easy to move in or out under the shredder.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦♦

Convenience: ♦♦♦♦

Value for money: ♦♦♦♦

Verdict: Great budget choice. Ideal for small gardens with mixed prunings, but noisy.

Quiet drum shredders

Handy THSSWB, £190

Handy THS SWB Credit:  Christopher Jones

Powerful 2,500W motor, with 
40mm cutting capacity. Drum shredder with a crush and cut action, 45-litre collection box, 3m black cable; weight 27kg, noise level 
95dB, 12-month warranty. Made in China 
(thehandy.co.uk; 01793 721615).

Likes: Quiet and very powerful in use. Good self-feeding function, so it pulls the prunings through and chops them neatly into little crushed logs. Very sturdy and solid. Reverse function for jammed material and an overload, reset protection system. Large collection box that locks into place. Good safety features. The packaging was moulded cardboard rather than polystyrene and plastic.

Dislikes: Arrived boxed for assembly. This was a two-person task. Short cable. The collection box locks into place at the back of the shredder, which is not intuitive. Needed adjusting to ensure stems are cut through. Very heavy, hard to move.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦

Convenience: ♦♦♦♦

Value for money: ♦♦♦♦

Verdict: Good value. Quiet and ideal for small to medium gardens with lots of shrubby material.

COBRA QS2500, £199

Cobra QS2500  Credit: Christopher Jones

The 2,500W motor shreds material 
up to 40mm in diameter. Auto-feed function, a plunger for increased throughput on heavier loads and a reverse function in case of jams. 50-litre collection box, 10m cable, weight 26.9kg, noise level 95dB, two-year domestic warranty. 
Made in China (cobragarden.co.uk; 0115 986 6646).

Likes: Arrived assembled. Well-made, sturdy machine. Very long cable. Quiet in use. Powerful machine that self-feeds material. Good safety features with a reset/circuit breaker (in case of overload) and a large collection box that locks into place. Reverse mode for blockages. Included a plunger. Dealt with a wide range of garden stems with no problems.

Dislikes: Needed adjusting to ensure thin stems are cut right through. Heavy to wheel around.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦ 

Convenience: ♦♦♦♦

Value for money: ♦♦♦♦

Verdict: Best for small to medium town 
and suburban gardens with lots 
of shrubby prunings. Good value and quiet.

Petrol chippers

NEW Handy THPDS65, £779.99

Handy THPDS 65 Credit:  Christopher Jones

Briggs & Stratton XRD950 208cc OHV engine with 25cm pneumatic wheels, two drum-mounted blades for stems up to 58mm diameter. Weight 52.5kg. Noise level 104dB, one-year warranty. Made in China (Handy – details as before).

Likes: Easy to start, started first time. Very powerful engine. Coped with everything, shredding it fast. Generous capacity for thicker stems. Good emergency-stop button within easy reach.

Dislikes: Arrived in a crate and took two people more than 90 minutes to assemble. Instructions were difficult. Exhaust fell off on start up. Restricted space for refilling the fuel tank. Wood can bounce back up the hopper and is not always stopped by safety flaps. Noisy. Heavy.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦

Convenience: ♦♦ (if we hadn’t had to assemble it, it would have scored better)

Value for money: ♦♦♦

Verdict: Ideal for large gardens with plenty of woody prunings.

NEW COBRA CHIP 
650LE, £799

COBRA CHIP 
650LE Credit:  christopher Jones

A 196cc 6.5hp Loncin engine, electric start, twin reversible blades. For stems up to 80mm. Weight 99kg; noise level 108dB. Two-year domestic warranty. Made in China (Cobra – as before).

Likes: Powerful shredder with a large hopper ideal for larger material. Effortlessly chips up to 80mm stems. Self-feeding. Comes with generous, protective cover. Electric key start was effortless. Well-designed, well-made and fairly easy to manoeuvre. Good safety bar to stop the machine from any angle. Ear defenders, eye protection and gloves included.

Dislikes: It tends to snatch stems out of your hand. Needs more protection to stop woody material spitting back up the chute. Noisy. Very heavy.

Performance: ♦♦♦♦

Convenience: ♦♦♦

Value for money: ♦♦♦

Verdict: Best for large gardens with lots of hedges, trees and shrubs. Electric start is a bonus.

The gardens

The gardens at Bishop’s Palace, Wells, have been transformed over the last 15 years by head gardener James Cross into a mix of picturesque, English garden style and contemporary planting; open daily 10am-4pm in winter.

During Christmas at the Palace, ­Dec 8-22, rooms will be decorated; in 2020 there will be a year-long programme celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Palace (­bishopspalace.org.uk; 01749 988111).