Go solar on the power shredder

By Lee Rich, The Associated Press
Saturday November 24, 2001

Here’s a great moneymaking scheme: advertise and sell a solar-powered shredder that is nonpolluting and low maintenance for the cost of a mere $75. This product would surely appeal to every gardener confronted this time of year with masses of old tomato and squash vines, corn stalks, and marigold plants needing to be reduced to a manageable size for composting. 

This solar-powered shredder is nothing more than a machete, which you could buy for just a few dollars. Humans are the power behind machetes, and we get our energy by eating plants, or by eating animals, which get their energy from plants. Either way, plants provide the power driving a machete, and plants get their energy from the sun. So any machete is, in fact, solar-powered. 

Seriously, a machete is an excellent tool for shredding plants. As you clear your garden of spent plants, heap them on the compost pile about a foot thick at a time, then use a machete to attack each layer. 

After only a minute of chopping, the layer is reduced to a couple of inches in thickness, leaving room to pile on more old plants. In contrast to the machine-gun roar of a gasoline-powered shredder, or the whine of an electric shredder, the only sounds from using the machete are the whooshing of the blade through the air, the crunch of vegetation, and your occasional grunts. 

The machete itself is elegant in its simplicity. Occasional sharpening is the only maintenance required, and there is only one part to break — and that with difficulty. (Machetes are cheap; just buy another one if it breaks.) It needs only 3-feet-by-3-inches-by-a-half-inch of storage space, against a wall. And a machete is not a single-purpose tool. It’s also useful for chopping down corn stalks and clearing brush. 

True, a machete will not outperform a power shredder. The power shredder is more thorough and also shreds leaves and branches. But leaves can go unshredded beneath trees and shrubs, and branches can be either burned or taken for recycling. More thorough shredding does speed composting, but what’s the rush? Machete-chopped compost can be ready to use in a couple of months in warm weather. 

For its effectiveness and simplicity, give a machete a place of honor in your garage along with the hoe, grass rake, and other “solar-powered” tools.