Cut down on your trips to the tip and forget about the bonfires; bag a garden shredder and do something useful with your waste
Trees and hedges take a lot of looking after, and once you’ve put down the hedge-trimmer, loppers or chainsaw, that doesn’t mean you’re finished with the job. Simply getting rid of hedge clippings, branches and shrub prunings can be a major endeavour, particularly if you’re dealing with established plants, larger trees or fast-growing conifers.
Bonfires can be effective but aren’t necessarily safe or eco-friendly. While not illegal, they’re often seen as a nuisance and are subject to environmental laws. This leaves you with options like hiring a skip to remove your garden waste, cramming it into green bins (where those are available) or driving the whole mess to the tip yourself.
A garden shredder is a more attractive option, transforming all those branches and clippings into manageable wood chips you can use for paths or mulching, or shreds you can put in your green bin or compost. There’s no getting around the fact that these beasts are often big and bulky, but they don’t have to be expensive. If you’ve got a lot of trees to deal with, you will never look back.
Best garden shredder: At a glance
|Best budget shredder
|Einhell GC-KS 2540 | £145
|Check price at Amazon
|Best small garden shredder
|Bosch AXT Rapid 2200 | £210
|Check price at Amazon
|Best wood chipper
|Forest Master FM6DD Petrol Wood Chipper | £519
|Check price at Amazon
|Best for heavy workloads
|Bosch AXT 25 TC | £399
|Check price at Amazon
How to choose the best garden shredder for you
Garden shredders need to do one thing, and do it well: turn bulky garden waste into shreds and woodchip as quickly and painlessly as possible. Most use some form of blade mechanism to slice twigs and branches into smaller chunks, though some heavy-duty models use a ridge roller to pull the material through and crush it into pieces.
The key thing that differentiates them is size and price. Larger, more expensive models are better equipped to handle thicker branches and will usually have a larger bag or box mounted where the chippings come out to pack more of them in.
While professional tree surgeons will have access to larger, sometimes trailer mounted shredders capable of tackling the biggest branches and even whole tree trunks, most consumer models are designed to handle branches of up to 40mm in diameter. Anything designed to cope with larger material will need a more powerful motor with more torque. Where the smaller models have 2,000-2,200W motors, the bigger models will have 2,500W or larger motors capable of producing between 400 and 650nm of torque.
Obviously, with these shredders, the larger the collector the better, so you can get away with emptying it less often. Cheaper models tend to come without any bag or box so you will either have to provide your own or let the clippings pile up on the ground.
Jams are the single biggest issue with a garden shredder. They’re usually caused when you try to feed in too much material or thicker branches and the motor and the blades can’t cope. Cheaper or poorly manufactured shredders often feature softer blades that dull faster and leave the machine unable to do its work. It’s hard to find a shredder that never jams, but the best shredders do it less often and only when you push your luck.
Is there anything else I should watch out for?
Most garden shredders use electric motors, so you need a cord for power. The longer this is, the less likely you will need to reach for an outside extension cord. There are some heavy-duty petrol models available, and these might be worth looking at if you need to do a lot of work at the end of a large garden or you’ve got larger trees and branches in need of shredding
Shredders are potentially dangerous pieces of equipment, so take care when using them and try not to do too much at once. Obviously, pushing items right into the jaws or blades isn’t such a good idea, so look for handy accessories like a plastic plunger that can do the work for you.
How we test garden shredders
After assembling the garden shredders, we run them through a barrage of tests using different hedge clippings and tree branches, including drier willow, hazel, and hornbeam branches and thick, green conifer branches. We also check how effectively they chomp through thick brambles and green garden weeds, which can tend to jam up some models. We test how well each shredder handles jams, and how easy – and safe – it is to clear those jams, or to empty the collection bin. Finally, we use a passthrough AC power meter and a smartphone-based sound meter to check power consumption and noise levels.
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The best garden shredders you can buy in 2023
1. Einhell GC-KS 2540: Best budget garden shredder
Price when reviewed: £145 | Check price at Amazon
If you want something to tear through your hedge cuttings and slice up the odd light branch, this blade-based Einhell shredder might fit the bill. It’s lightweight, compact and easy to store, and not a massive effort to lug down to the bottom of the garden when a pile of waste has built up. The downside of this is that it’s really only suited to lighter jobs; the hopper isn’t the most accommodating, and you might want to take the 40mm maximum branch capacity with a pinch of salt. Anything too big tends to jam the mechanism or come through in strips. A bit more money will buy you a bigger, better shredder, but as long as you don’t get too ambitious and start feeding it chunky branches, this one will do the job.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 40mm; Motor: 2,500W electric; Torque: Not supplied; Collector: N/A; Dimensions: 94 x 41.3 x 33cm; Weight: 9.8kg
2. Mac Allister MSPH2800D: Best all-round shredder on a budget
Price when reviewed: £150 | Check price at Screwfix
We’ve seen budget shredders that can chop up lightweight garden rubbish and hedge clippings, and budget shredders that can handle dry, woody branches. This Mac Allister model, found at B&Q, Screwfix and Amazon, is the first we’ve seen that can do both. It can be a bit challenging forcing hedge trimmings and chunky brambles into the slot at the top, but once they hit the cutting blades they’re soon rendered down into strips of green debris. And while the Mac Allister can make a fair bit of noise while chomping through thicker branches, it doesn’t have any problems chomping through them. The chippings aren’t as small or as neat as we might like, but they’re still usable as a mulch or surface dressing.
This unit also feels like a step up from the usual budget shredder. The instructions are reasonably clear, it fits together neatly and the controls are easy to work out, even when you need to adjust the cut or head into the reverse gear. We also like the safety features, like the way that the machine won’t start unless the collection bin is locked in place. It’s a small shame that some leaves and twigs still seem to make it out above the edges of the bin, causing mess, but it’s not a major issue. This is a solid, reliable shredder – only jamming once during testing on a chunky conifer branch – and superb value for money.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 45mm; Motor: 2,800W electric; Torque: Not stated; Collector: 50l bin; Dimensions: 93 x 37 x 55cm; Weight: 18kg
The Bosch AXT Rapid 2200 is a real step up from the average compact shredder. Not only is it built more solidly, but its plastic hopper will take in bigger branches and more foliage, and the mechanism does a good job of pulling them through and spitting them out in strips and chips. You can feed it branches of up to 30mm in diameter and feel fairly confident that they will actually make it through, though the advertised 40mm might be stretching things. Meanwhile, the wheels and 12kg weight mean it’s still relatively easy to move around the garden. For heavy-duty work, you really need something bigger and more powerful, but this is a great way to turn most garden waste into something you can stuff in a green bin or compost.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 40mm; Motor: 2,200W electric; Torque: 12nm; Collector: N/A; Cord length: 10m; Dimensions: 75.4 x 43.4 x 37.1mm; Weight: 12kg
4. Bosch AXT 25 TC: Best garden shredder for heavy workloads
Price when reviewed: £399 | Check price at Amazon
Bosch’s biggest shredder will take on bigger workloads than the less powerful, compact models; feed in branches up to 45mm in diameter and it will still spit them out, thanks to Bosch’s Turbine Cut system and a 2,500W motor, which can deliver a sizable 650nm of torque. There’s a noticeable difference in power between this shredder and the smaller units, and it jams up less often when handling larger branches or branches with a lot of foliage. What’s more, there’s plenty of space in the 53-litre bin to collect all the resulting chips and clippings. Even thick conifer branches don’t tend to trip it up, though you might have to push the last bits through with the plunger provided. It’s big and expensive, but this is the best electric shredder for gardens with a lot of trees and shrubs.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 45mm; Motor: 2,500W electric; Torque: 650nm; Collector: 53l bin; Cord length: 4.5m; Dimensions: 73 x 68.4 x 39.4cm; Weight: 30.5kg
5. Forest Master FM6DD Petrol Wood Chipper: Best compact wood chipper
Price when reviewed: £519 | Check price at Amazon
Looking to turn a lot of freshly cut wood into woodchip? The Forest Master FM6DD has the muscle for the job. It will chip branches of up to 5cm in diameter and hurl the chips out from the discharge chute on the size. You can angle this to create a pile on the ground or spit them straight into a waiting wheelbarrow. You can also cram some pretty chunky branches into the feed hopper, though a plate inside it can cause the odd obstruction when you’re feeding them through.
This is a bigger unit than the electric shredders, not to mention heavier and pretty noisy. Plus, with a four-stroke petrol engine, it’s a little more onerous to fuel and maintain. All the same, you will struggle to find anything else at a similar price that can take on everything from dry branches to foliage from an overgrown shrub without any trouble, and it will work in places that you can’t reach with an extension cable.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 50mm; Motor: 6hp 208cc 4-stroke petrol; Torque: Not supplied; Collector: N/A; Dimensions: 78 x 91 x 48mm; Weight: 38kg
6. Draper 230V Quiet Garden Shredder: Best quiet garden shredder
Price when reviewed: £253 | Check price at Toolstation
Garden shredders can be one of the loudest outdoor power tools, so there’s a lot to be said for one that doesn’t upset the peace, particularly if you have timid pets, poor neighbour relations, or you’re working on, or near, public buildings for long periods. Draper’s Quiet Garden Shredder does precisely what it says on the box. In no-load conditions, it is rated at 94dB – similar to an electric drill – which, given the tough nature of the product, is mightily impressive. Though it’s worth pointing out that it gets louder when you shred, due to the snapping sound of the materials.
Assembly-wise it only takes about five minutes to fit the wheels – which are necessary because it tips the scales at more than 20kg. It’s easy to operate, with an on/off switch beside an overload protection reset button, and a rocker switch for forward and reverse operation. The switches all feature rubber covers to prevent wood chips getting stuck inside. There are a pair of cupholders, but a more useful feature is the plastic plunger to feed smaller items into the shredder. The Draper impressed in operation, and was easily able to take a wide variety of 4cm-thick branches without jamming, so the 44mm maximum diameter seems reasonable. The resulting chippings are small, and drain into a 55-litre bin which slides underneath.
Key specs – Maximum branch capacity: 44mm; Motor: 2,800W electric; Torque: Not specified; Collector: 55l bin; Cord length: 3m; Dimensions: 92 x 62 x 46cm; Weight: 20.5kg