Choosing a gas shredder
When should you consider buying a gasoline-driven shredding machine? If over the season you collect a significant amount of sticks and branches that fall or are pruned from your many trees or shrubs, you might consider buying a chipper/shredder machine. While not cheap, they last for decades and might help keep your organic waste on the property instead of sending it out to the trash. It makes wonderful mulch.
Shredders come in all sizes and shapes. Since this is not a low-cost item, it is wise to get a feel of your options.
• Electric chipper/shredders: I do not recommend the little electric chipper/shredders. I've tested a half dozen over the years and because they are under-powered they clog up too easily no matter how careful you might be in feeding material into the machine's hopper.
• Gas chipper/shredders: I have had good experience with gasoline-driven chipper/shredders over the years. All kinds of organic yard waste can be shredded into particles the size of a nickel. In most cases, the leaves, weeds, and twigs will be reduced at a 10-to-1 ratio. In other words, 10 bags of leaves when shredded produce one bag of shredded leaves. In the best machines, the shredding function is joined by a chipper attachment, allowing larger branches to be chipped into more mulch. Depending on the model, homeowner units can accept branches up to 3 inches in diameter.
The two variables to consider when making a selection are: horsepower and size of the chipping hopper.
A 5-horsepower machine will handle the load for an average property that is less than an acre (Yard Machines, $550). It can chip branches up to 2 inches in diameter. If you have a large number of trees to maintain, you should look at machines with 8.5 horsepower (Craftsman, $800) or even 10 horsepower (Troy-Bilt, $900). These machines will chip branches up to 3 inches in diameter. Shredding and chipping requires significant power to be done effectively. The higher the horsepower, the easier it is to handle larger volumes of material, especially if it is wet, which is often the case.
To get an idea of all the sizes of shredders available, check out the shredder section of Amazon.com. Most tool rental outlets will have one or two gas shredders for the home landscape. I used to go in with a neighbor and rent one for a day and cover both properties.