Composting Mulching

How to Shred Leaves Without Making a Hole in a Garbage Can

Like every fall, my deck is covered in leaves, and I’m delighted! My girlfriend is less so and would like me to put them in green waste bags, rather than accumulating them because I’m going to “use them later”.

A Nasty Flaw

You see, I have this nasty habit, which my father also had, of not wanting to throw away anything that could be reused, especially not organic matter that could be used in the garden as compost or mulch. The problem is that I live on the second floor of a building in a condominium, and my garden is a terrace above my downstairs neighbor’s garage. It’s hard to store piles of leaves there!

Ideally, I’d shred all these leaves so that they take up less space and I’d put some of them on my planting trays before winter to protect them from the cold, from erosion and also to feed my potting soil as it decomposes. The following year, if I have any left over, I’ll use it as mulch to keep the moisture in my pots, which dry out very quickly, and to prevent weeds from growing. All this for free, without having to go to the store!

Leaf Shredding Mishaps

Some of you may remember my troubles last year in my post How to Make a Hole in a Garbage Can in 9 Easy Steps. I wanted to shred my leaves, but didn’t have the right tools. So I tried to use what I had at home, since a shredder is expensive and I don’t have room to store it anyway, especially since I’d only be using it once a year.

One of my attempts to shred the leaves…

I tried my luck with a kitchen mixer, a mortar mixer and even an ice auger. The result? Very few shredded leaves and an ankle injury, as well as a hole in a garbage can. In short, a monumental failure. But I’m not going to let it get me down!

The String Trimmer Trick for Shredding Leaves

Many of you have suggested my father’s classic trick: mulching with a string trimmer. It’s very simple: you put your leaves in a bin and insert a nylon string trimmer (grass trimmer or edger). Activate it while mixing the leaves, and you get beautiful, tiny pieces of leaf that decompose quickly and won’t harm the perennials that emerge in the spring if used as mulch.

As you might guess, I don’t have a lawn and therefore no string trimmer, but you’ve given me an idea anyway: use the trimmer head by attaching it to a drill. Would it work? You’ll see!

How to Make a Mini Shredder

So I bought a corded mower head from a hardware store. The method of attaching it to the drill took longer to discover, but with the help of the store clerk, I came up with a very simple solution: a threaded steel rod and two nuts.

I placed one nut on the end of the rod, then threaded the trimmer head over it, followed by the second nut, which I tightened with a wrench. Since trimmer head models can differ, if you try it your way, it’s possible that my technique won’t work for you.

Judge the Tree by Its Leaves

I attached it to a drill and went outside to test my contraption. I inserted my hand shredder into my leaf bin as if I were using my father’s technique and turned it on. Great success! The battery-powered drill not only had enough force to spin the device through the leaves, but was fast enough that after just a few minutes, my leaves were in small pieces!

Now I have my own leaf shredder, which only cost me about fifty dollars and stores well given the limited space at home. I’ll have plenty of shredded leaves to use as mulch, maybe even to make leaf compost or for my future experiments with vermicomposting.

One question remains: what to name this invention?

Mathieu manages the and websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

5 comments on “How to Shred Leaves Without Making a Hole in a Garbage Can

  1. It sounds dangerous!

  2. Why not dry them a bit and use a paper shredder or a food processor.

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      Last year I tired with a blender. The results were great but it was time consuming!

  3. Bill Russell

    How about “Shreddy”? (Not to confuse with a breakfast cereal or a movie monster…)

  4. Last year’s efforts were so funny, but appreciate your success this year. Love your new creative Fall Weed Wacker Wonder.

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