Using autumn leaves and garden debris as mulch or adding them to the compost pile is an easy way of "going green." It provides extra nutrients and organic matter to the soil and prevents those wastes from ending up in a landfill. If the leaves and other material are shredded first, it reduces the amount of space it requires and the time involved in decomposition. Many gardeners enjoy a do-it-yourself attitude and they see no sense in buying a dedicated shredder when it is so easy to do with existing or low-cost tools. While not as good as a commercial shredder, this method can come pretty close, and for most uses that is quite sufficient.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 32 to 44 gallon outside garbage can
- String trimmer
- Eye and ear protection
Place the leaves and debris into the garbage can. It is important that the material be as dry as possible. Do not pack tightly.
Lift the trimmer and place it in the can, with the protective cover about four inches under the leaves. Turn the trimmer on and move in a circular motion about the can. Do not let it rise above the top of the leaves while the trimmer is running. The string should begin chopping the leaves and debris.
After a moment of the circular motion, move the trimmer downward a few inches into the can while still moving in a circle.
Continue this movement with a variation of moving it upward a few inches every few times you move it downward into the can. If it becomes impossible to move it downward then the can is too full. Remove the materials and put a portion of it back in to try again.
Move the trimmer around the can from side to side and top to bottom once the bottom of the can has been reached. Continue this until it appears that all the material is shredded. If desired, use a rake or shovel handle to mix the material together and redo the process for a finer shred.
Tips and warnings
- Don not use sticks or other material that your string trimmer cannot chop. Refer to the owner's manual for advice on capacity of the trimmer.
- Always wear eye and ear protection when using motorised garden tools.
- As you continue to do this, it will be easier to judge the amount of material to initially place into the can to ensure smooth shredding.
- Lifting the trimmer above the leaves while running is similar to tuning on a full kitchen blender with the top off. Material can eject from the can while travelling at a substantial speed and may cause injury to someone in its path.
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