At certain times of the year, a shredder on your smallholding will be invaluable. Anyone keen on making compost and mulch ~ a necessary component in healthy soils ~ will have their job made much easier by a shredder.
Small scale farmers who recently pruned their fruit trees, or felled even a small tree, will admit that one will generate a surprising pile of twigs and scrub. If this is left untended it will be unsightly at least. It will also become a haven for rats and vermin and, later, a fire hazard.
An afternoon spent feeding waste vegetation through a shredder will yield a satisfying pile of mulch. Apply this directly around the bases of shrubs and trees, and onto flower and vegetable beds. There, it does three things. Firstly, it helps insulate the soil and keep it cool, retaining moisture. Secondly, it inhibits the emergence and growth of weeds, and thirdly, it adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down over the seasons.
Or, you can mix the shredded material into the compost heap, where it will decompose faster than if added whole.
If you are only want to use your shredder for leaves, a simple and cheaper option is to get a hand-held 28cc petrol-powered combined blower/vacuum shredder. With this you can manoeuvre fallen leaves into a pile, clear paths and driveways etc, and then suck up and shred the leaves, collecting the shreddings in an attached bag.
However, if you need also to cope with twigs, larger plant matter, wood chips and smaller garden trimmings, a 1 600W electric mulching shredder will be more practical.
In summer a shredder is useful for mixing lawn clippings with other plant material, which will enrich and feed your compost heap.
A wood chipper is a heavy-duty item which we use for reducing scrub and wood, generally up to smaller branches, ie about 5cm diameter, but on larger models including limbs and sections of tree trunk, into small wood chips. These can be petrol- or diesel-powered, or driven by your tractor’s PTO.
For a smallholding, after the initial clearing of unwanted trees, scrub etc, the purchase of such large machines is probably overkill. A more cost-effective option is to hire the machine or or employ a contractor to do the job.
To read about the use of other equipment on a smallholding, such as brushcutters and chainsaws, click here.