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Small shredder quite handy for gardeners in city, suburbs

The time to rake up, clean up, and put the garden to bed has arrived in most northern sections of the country. Thus, it is an appropriate time to discuss a new type of shredder that has come onto the US market.

It excites me, because it is the first small electrically powered shredder that behaves like a big gasoline-driven one.

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A West German machine, it appears to be rugged and durable. Most importantly, it is powered by conventional 110-volt electricity, which makes it ever so convenient for the householder to use. I have tried it out for the past three weeks, and I like what it does.

It is designed specifically to meet the needs of the suburban and city resident who has moderate-size flower and vegetable beds and likes the idea of converting his garden waste - spent plants, discarded flowers, hedge clippings, tree prunings, and so forth - into an attractive mulch or quick-decaying compost.

If, as I do, you scour the neighborhood for organic waste each fall, the Steinmax, as it is called, is too small for your needs. It will do the job, of course, but it will take more time than most of us have.

While conventional shredders are hammer-mill-type machines that bludgeon waste into fragments, the Steinmax cuts the waste into tiny pieces. Its principal V-shaped cutter blade looks rather like an oversize version of a kitchen-blender blade.

In addition, it has two circular chipper blades that process tree branches up to 11/2 inches thick through a feeder tube on the side.

As an example, it took me some 10 minutes shredding time to process all the spent tomato vines in my garden - 27 in all - and some two-dozen pepper plants. When it was over, what had been a tangled pile of frost-blackened vines was not much more than a pail full of very fine mulch.

My large shredder would have done the same thing in one-third of the time - but, then, it cost three times as much as the $200 Steinmax.

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Corn stalks, sunflower stems, and the like are processed through the chipper tube in seconds. A willow branch, just small enough to fit in the tube, was reduced to chips almost as rapidly.

Thoroughly dampened - but not wet - newspaper can be processed a little at a time if mixed in with other materials. On the other hand, rolled up into a tight tube and fed into the chipper, it is readily shredded when dry or damp.

Like all shredders, the German machine tends to clog up if fed wet materials. For more information, write to: Steinmax, River Road, Point Pleasant, Pa. 18950.

The gardener who is principally interested in shredding leaves can do an effective job with a power mower. Spread the leaves about 12 inches thick along a wall or similar obstruction and run the mower back and forth over the leaves so that the ''mowed'' leaves are blown up against the wall for easy collection.

Repeat the action, if necessary, to get the leaves down to the size you want.

A mower, however, will not effectively shred other garden residues - particularly tree prunings or hedge clippings, which shredders take in their stride.

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