how do you shred leaves?

emme-dc(7b DC)March 16, 2012

I've seen lots of references to grinding up leaves and using directly. Any tools or gadgets that do that? I am imagining something like a small, hand-cranked chipper, like an old-fashioned coffee grinder. Or maybe a large food processor-like appliance? I'd love to be able to rake up my leaves, grind them, and throw em right back in. Whatever it is, it would have to be small. Am I dreaming?

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Easiest and least expensive way is to run them over with your lawn mower. Without the bag, run them over and then pick them up with the bag.

otherwise you can purchase leaf shredders from the hardware stores.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 5:23AM
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Hi Just stumbled across the post. I agree with Coach Grumpy. You can also insert the leaves into an empty garbage can/bin. Then, use a weedeater to "chip" away at them.

I recently read of using an old hand meat grinder to chew up leaves. I really like this idea as I prefer smaller compost pieces. I like smaller compost piles so I chip and chop away at everything.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 5:47AM
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How depends on how many leaves there are to shred, where I am, and what the end use of the shredded leaves will be.
I have a vacuum/shredder that I can use for small amounts that will end up being mulch or compost. I have a much larger, 8 HP, chipper/shredder that I use for larger amounts that will be used for mulch or compost. I have the trim mower I can use also. Many times I simply run over the leaves and shred them where they fell from the trees right back into the soil they came from.
That hand cranked meat grinder is not going to shred leaves and you probably will get blisters trying.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 7:04AM
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Nothing beats a chipper/ shredder. The lawnmower approach works, using a bagger is best, but discharging against a barrier of some kind, like the wall of your barn, will work, but plan on re-painting. The string trimmer in the barrel works, but you can't do too much at a time. I do many bags at a time... perhaps 1000 gallons (40 bags), so a coffee grinder is simply incomprehensible to me. With a shredder, it might take 4 or 5 hours. Whatever you do, dry leaves are best.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:06PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I have have a chipper/shredder, but I still prefer the lawn mower. With the lawn mower the leaves can be spread out on the ground and I don't have to do much raking or lifting.

With the chipper shredder, I have to lift everything that goes into the shredder and then move it again once its shredded. This is hard on my bulging discs. With the lawnmower, everything stays on the ground. And I use the power of the self-propelled mower to move the bag of shredded leaves around.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:33PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Another vote for the mower!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 12:47PM
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When you say: "using directly" I presume you mean use the leaves in your lawn?????

Maybe I'm silly, but I prefer to use leaves in my compost pile and/or garden and mulch my grass clippings in the lawn.

I simply blow or rake them on to a tarp and drag them to my compost pile. I will shred a few of them with my mower.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 3:58PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I vote for the riding mower...really works. I mow the leaves inward and make a making hay. I then BACK over them until they are mulched.

I sometimes empty bagged leaves in a layer about 6 inches deep and 15 feet wide and just keep backing over them. I can then blow the mulched leaves inward into a windrow for picking up.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 6:28PM
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emme-dc(7b DC)

Well, that was good for some laughs! Because I don't have a lawn mower. Nor a lawn. Nor even a weed wacker. Much less, a ride-on mower. I'm trying to set up a small compost to feed my small urban perennial garden. But I get a lot of leaves, more than I can compost, and I would like to recycle them as mulch, or as soil conditioner.

What is the *smallest* chipper/shredder appliance that anyone has come across?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:05PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

*Scissors.* (I use a lawn mower AND bag 'em, works for me - got the back to deal with as well...).

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:16PM
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I picked up a used electric shredder that fit over a garbage can for $5, basically just a motor with a wire threaded through the shaft and an electrical cord. Less than stellar results.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:17PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

The way I both pick up and shred leaves from a small area is with my leaf blower that I never have used as a blower but had hubby reverse the intake so it vacuums instead of blows. (Why ANYONE uses a BLOWER that simply moves leaves around the yard instead of dealing with them permanently by vacuuming them up always has mystified me). It's great for cleaning out my foundation beds or under shrubbery, after which I dump the cornflake-sized leaf bits back where they came from as a mulch. Whole leaves pack down and take a long time to turn to soil, but my fine leaf-mulch is nearly gone in less than a year and does wonders!
Crazy though it may be, when I want really fine mulch for a specific use (like around smaller plants in my herb bed)I also have used the leaf vac to shred up pretty large piles of leaves after raking them into a windrow. My vac is electric; I do not know what it costs ($$ or environmentally) to run, but had bought it years ago when we lived free at a boarding school where we did not have to pay for electricity. We are in a private home now, but I never have tried to check on the cost. And of course, one may need a long power cord...

But anyway, since you may be averse to investing in one of these (though they are much cheaper than a mower) I must state you cannot expect to shred leaves using any kitchen appliance!! Forget it. I use an old blender to chop junk paper to make handmade paper and this winter also used it to chop some very dry leaves that I am adding to my paper mix and as well as a lot to mix into the bedding for my worm bins. It was not difficult, but believe me -- you cannot hope to chop enough leaves using that technique to be practical on a garden scale!

I just went for a walk in a nearby park yesterday. Along the back edge of the area, big piles of (unshredded) leaves had been dumped last fall. They still were leaves, but along the edge of the woods where leaves obviously had been dumped over a long period of time, the ground was pure black, soft spongy richness. In other words--"compost happens!" But it can take years...

Other suggestions: if you had goats or chickens, using lots of leaves in their pens as bedding (as we did when we had those critters) makes for the best compost materials imaginable come spring!

Or leaves spread on a driveway, if you could keep them there, and run over them regularly, might work...

Or do you live near a town that collects leaves and takes them to a composting facility? I compost for myself all the leaves from our one-acre yard of trees (chopped and picked up with a rider mower with a mulching blade) but still buy extra pure leaf compost each spring at our local composting facility. They also sell compost made from general yard waste, but for several reasons I much prefer the pure leaf compost. It is $16 a trailer load (one scoop from a big front-end loader, likely 1 cu. yard) and pretty much fills a 4' x 8' raised bed.

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 7:57AM
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A number of ways to shred leaves.

The 'best' (i.e. easy way) is just to let someone else do it for you. There are people who have shredders, who don't use the leaves they shred! They just put them out by the curb! Too bad there aren't many folks like that. The one near me either passed away or moved.

If you shred them yourself, the chipper/shredder is less work then using a mower (in most cases). Shredders vary quite a bit as far how fine they shred the material. The finer the better. Good ones have screens of varying sizes to vary the output size.

The mower is the number three choice, except for periods of spring and fall, when the grass/leaf mix is just right for compost. A bagging mower may be better at collecting the material than a simple side discharge mower. But either will work.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:34PM
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ColesvilleEd(9 / Silicon Valley)

My yard is tiny (it's a townhouse) but there is enough yard waste that they provide a large rolling bin for disposal. I use mine to collect refundable bottles and cans, and compost the yard waste.

I use clippers (like for cutting roses) or loppers (the tool for pruning branches, long handles and short curved blades) to shred. I pick up a handful of the material in my left hand, and holding one handle under my armpit and the other in my right hand, I cut about a couple inches at a time. Maybe three or four cuts per handful. For pieces of wood (like redwood bark or cut up tree limbs) you can split the individual pieces like little logs. Very slow work.

Generally I try to shred materials as I add them to my pile, but sometimes I'm hit with a lot of material at a time and want to let the composting process do the initial shred. So I add unshredded leaves, vines, sticks that are cut up enough that the pile can be turned, and manage the pile aggressively (the 14 day compost method, hot pile of layered green and brown, turn every 3 days, add water as needed).

Then I screen the compost, coarse and finer (i.e. I've got two screens). I put the fines on a pile to cure and put the intermediate back in the compost pile. The coarsest stuff can be shredded, or layered back on the compost pile with more green (I use alfalfa pellets). The idea is there is a lot less now to be shredded, maybe half as much. You could probably go a long way by just continuing to compost without extra shredding, my point here is that a lot of shredding is done by each pass through the compost pile.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:12PM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

Has anyone tried one of the shredders that fits on a shop-vac? I've tried the mower method (when DH wasn't home--LOL)--not only will I not try that again, but DH usually does the leaves, and there is no way I would try asking him to do it! Time and gas-guzzling!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:39PM
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"pick up a handful of the material in my left hand, and holding one handle under my armpit and the other in my right hand, I cut about a couple inches at a time."

This has hospital visit written all over it.

Another vote for mowing em

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 1:10AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

emme-dc. It sounds as if in your situation any large equipment is out. You say you are already composting a proportion of the available leaves but there are too many. Have you considered just making a circle of wire netting and putting the leaves in whole? You would end up with leaf mold which is an excellent soil conditioner. There is no need to shred at all if it is too complicated. Just chuck in the damp leaves in the autumn and forget about them until next leaf fall. Then spread them out and refill your bin with more leaves. Alternatively just use the leaves whole as a mulch.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 8:38AM
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emme-dc(7b DC)

flora-uk, so far I've just been either bagging and discarding leaves and garden waste, or leaving it around in unsightly piles that are kind of in the way, or just raking it over the "beds" for the winter and scratching my head about what to do with it in the spring. I lack a good location for composting. I suppose I could put up a big wire pound and compost the leaves there, but I couldn't put kitchen scraps in because of the rats. I want to start composting kitchen waste, using some kind of closed containers, but then I would have no place to put a big pile of leaves. Also I wish there were some kind of shortcut because I need soil conditioner now. That's where the shredding would come in. But perhaps you are right, I just need to get a good compost going and be patient.

Speaking of large equipment, my four year old's eyes went wide when he saw me watching a video of a big commercial-grade chipper shredder that sucked up trees like they were cotton candy. "We should get one of those," he said, with feeling. Though he later expressed a preference for the really big ones with the grapple arms.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Don't kids love big machines!?!

I am a big fan of leaf mold, but it takes time and space. I think your best bet might be to rent or borrow a mower a couple of times a year - spring and fall. In the spring, you shred whatever is at hand and add that to the compost. In the fall, when most people have the bulk of their leaves, shred with the mower and use them on top of the garden as a mulch. In spring, turn that in with a garden fork. In just a few years it will transform your soil, you'll love it.

Shredding, by the way, will reduce the volume a lot... 3:1 at least.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:23PM
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emme-dc Some localities have community composts very much because residents have the same problems as yours. To cope, they dedicate a community compost where everyone contributes and everyone takes as needed. Perhaps you can find that nearby. I wish we had this but we're rural so we're all on our own, I suppose.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 5:16AM
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I also do the mower bit, but that doesn't work where a mower cannot go!! I have had a Toro electric blower that vacs up and mulches leaves into a cloth bag. We have a Honda 2000 inverter generator and the blower and generator work well. We have probably 40 trees on and around the property, and of course I get the blown in from the neighbors. I also have a McKissic Chipper-Shredder, but cannot see any advantage with it for leaves.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 2:40PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Short of chipper/shredder , using you hands an scissors (LOL) I find ole lawnmower to be the best alternative.

What would I do is to blow the leaves onto the lawn(out of the garden, under the trees..) and make a nice thick carpet of them.
Then use the DOUBLE PASS method. You have to do this when the leaves are not soaking wet ; the drier, the better.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 6:00PM
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Definitely a lawn mower. It's fast, easy and actually fun. :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 1:23PM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

I used my mower on the leaves right where they fell and it works great to shred them, but I found it difficult to get the shredded leaves back out of the grass, 'cuz I don't have a bag on my mower.

Perhaps I should have collected the leaves and deposited them elsewhere before I shredded them?

So, I bought a leaf shredder, it works very well and was much cheaper than buying a bag thing for my mower.

This post was edited by organic_flutterby on Mon, Nov 18, 13 at 7:29

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:16AM
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The leaves I pick up myself I use A mulch mower with an attached bagger, however I have my neighbors trained and they call me when they have their leaves bagged up and those I dump onto the garden and let them dry nice and crisp and then work them into the soil and let ma nature do her thing over the winter and spring. Like Kimmer said a mower with a bag when they are dry does the trick, with speed and you don't need to buy and store extra equipment. However to each their own theres more than one way to skin a cat.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 5:17AM
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neen_5mi(z5 MI)

Chickens! Get 2-3 hens and let them have at it for the winter. By spring they'll have shredded the leaves and will start to lay eggs. And you'll have fallen in love with their personalities. They also add nitrogen to the leaf pile!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 3:44PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

How do the chickens shred the leaves ? why they would do that ?. I just want to know. I am not dismissing it.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 9:17PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

The chickens scratch around looking for goodies, and as the leaves dry out they scratch them into nothing. Add that to their poop and you have the best stuff to add to your compost! Or use as a base for next year's garden.
Many people use a "garden tractor" (I'm thinking of building one!).This is a mini coop that holds a few chickens at a time
You can have the chickens scratch and tear up an area, while adding poop to the yard. If you throw a bunch of leaves in there...BINGO! pretty much ready for planting in a few months! Then you move the tractor to the next area (or raised bed in my case) The chickens have eaten the weeds, pooped and shredded the leaves all into a great garden area! The only thing you have to worry about is having too much fresh poop when it's time for planting! You want to move it probably 3 months before planting (and this is where the leaves come in again!) let them scratch around again for awhile then move them! Nancy

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 1:18AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

I use my blower/vac by Toro to suck up and shred my leaves. Works Great for me!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 7:39AM
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Having 2 working compost piles, 4 X 4 X 4 I'm finding stored bags of leaves added to other items and mixed continuously
do not need to be shredded.
I rescind this above remark about leaves not needing to be shredded !!!
Leaves are maple, pear, and oak, along with a small amount of apple leaves.
I am not tossing the leaves into the pile in clumps,
My compost piles are extremely active with worms, sowbugs and a few others I am not familiar with.
Temps range in 100 - 130 degrees F down under.

This post was edited by japus on Thu, Nov 21, 13 at 11:15

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 8:07AM
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I have a bagger on my garden tractor. After picking up leaves, I mulch them by using a large plastic bucket and my weed whacker. This works great and I can make about 6 or 7, 5 gal buckets of leaf mulch in about a ý hour. Works just like a blender and reduces the leaves in very small particles.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 9:42AM
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