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Summer crops are piled up waiting to be shredded for a new compost pile. We'll use the results in the spring garden.

Ask Gardenerd: Shredder Advice

A great question came into Ask Gardenerd this week from Kati Thompson about the best shredder for compost prep:

Hi Christy, I was at two of your talks at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show in February of 2022.

At that show you mentioned a couple times that you “shred” items you put in your compost for quicker decomposing. I’m hoping you can tell me what type of device you use? Brand and model? If/Why you love it and if you would choose differently if you were to purchase a second time? I have a large raised bed garden and live in the forest, so have LOTS to compost, but the “larger” items like vines and twigs take forever–I’d love to break those things down.

Thank you so much for any information or direction! And I hope to hear you again at the show in 2023!!

Kati Thompson

All of these are great questions, Kati. Let’s address them one by one.

Our Patriot shredder – the answer to the age-old argument of chop up vs. throw it in whole

Become a Shread Head

I’m still a big fan of shredding biomass before making a big Active Batch Thermal compost pile. It makes all the ingredients uniform in size, and facilitates quicker breakdown and easier turning. As the saying goes, the smaller the pieces, the more surface area those pieces have. That means more places for bacteria to start breaking it down!

Why Do We Love It (Still)?

You’ll find all of my arguments for shredding in this blog post, along with the make and model of the one we still use over a decade later. This particular electric (plug-in) model is not as powerful as the gas-powered model, but I’ll take that over fumes, and gasoline storage any time.

We’ve learned how to feed biomass into the shredder so it doesn’t gum up (wait a day before shredding freshly cut green material to let it dry down). And if you keep the blade sharp, it keeps working like new for more than a decade. And yes, it’s an investment, but worth every penny to me.

Maintenance is Key

Note: We didn’t regularly sharpen the blade until attempting to do so for the first time last year. Big mistake! We ended up replacing the blade all together (best $50 spent!). What a huge difference that makes! Don’t be afraid of this process, it’s not scary once you do it the first time.

Keep your blade sharpened on the regular, like the instructions say and the Patriot will serve you for a very long time. 11 years in, it’s still working perfectly.

Compost pile wordless wednesday
We built an Active Batch Thermal compost pile with shredded biomass from summer. Corn and wheat stalks plus perennial alfalfa and fresh hedge trimmings. It is just starting to cook. A large thermometer is a good accessory to have if you are serious about composting.


We recently bought the custom cover for the shredder after years of draping tarps and plastic bags over it to no avail. We’d always end up with water inside and the subsequent rust that inevitably followed, even though we thought we’d covered every square inch of it properly. If you can’t store the shredder indoors, I highly recommend spending the money on the cover. It really is worth the expense.

Last Thought – Customer Support

It may help to know that every time we’ve contacted customer support, they’ve gone out of their way to help us answer our questions. These guys are there for you when you need them. I hope this answers your question, Kati, and helps you make the decision.

Oh – and I will be speaking at the NorthWest Flower and Garden Show again in 2023. I’m doing two talks: one on Composting and one on Small space vegetable gardening for spring. Tickets are now available. Hope to see you there!

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