Turn fallen leaves into a crumbly topping for your garden.

The Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder. Adding leaves in small amounts ensures good results.

Even though I’m all grown up, I still get a boyish thrill from destroying things. The Deluxe Electric Leaf Shredder provides the perfect opportunity for some loud, violent destruction. And after a year of tending, coaxing, watering and weeding the garden, I’m ready for a little annhilation. The best part is that it’s all for a good cause: The leaves get raked up and turned into a soil-enhancing, crumbly topping for my flower beds.

At first, I couldn’t justify the purchase of a shredder because my small, urban yard has very few leaves. However, there’s a community composting operation, Intervale Compost, located just down the road from my house, and it’s the collection point for leaves from all over the county. The best part is, the leaves have been raked up by other people and are already neatly packed in those big brown paper bags. How convenient can it get?

Truckload of leaves

The big haul: Pre-bagged and ready to shred!

You never know exactly what’s in the bags, but if they’re not too heavy, you can assume that they’re filled with dry leaves. I arrived at Intervale Compost with an empty truck and drove off with 13 of those jumbo paper bags. I received a few strange looks from folks who were dropping off their gardening debris, but I got what I wanted without having to pick up a rake—definitely worth a little embarassment.

Before you start, make sure you have hearing protection and safety glasses. The shredder is loud, and debris can come flying out of the hopper. Long pants and long sleeves are a good idea, too.

Once you’re all suited up, let the destruction begin! The shredder fits nicely over a 30-gallon garbage can, or you can collect the shreds in a tubtrug.

I found that you can’t dump great globs of leaves into the hopper because it gets bogged down. The best approach: Pour the leaves in slowly right from the bag, or add handfuls. If the machine seems to slow down a bit, reduce the rate. As soon as the motor hits full speed again, start adding more leaves. It’s easy to get a rhythm going, and soon, your bucket is full.

Shredded leaves

The finished product

There are many ways to use shredded leaves. I use the leaves to top-dress my perennial beds. I spread a 1-2″ layer and let it sit all winter. In the spring, I turn it into the soil. My rhododendrons, which are meant to grow in the duff that accumulates on the forest floor, get an extra-thick coating of shredded leaves. My friend Kathy uses the shreds to make leaf mold, which will, in spring, be ready for mulching her beds.

For now, the shredder is put away. But there are still leaves to fall … I might make another trip to the collection center and get a few more of those bags. It’s just so darn easy!

-David Grist
Online Content Coordinator, Gardener’s Supply