If it were not for a bushel basket of apples - McIntosh for the most part, with a few Cortlands thrown in - one of the most effective shredders of wet leaves and wet newspaper to come onto the American market might never have been developed.
Late last year some West German industrialists arrived at this Delaware River town to demonstrate, among other things, an apple shredder to Pennsylvania businessman Graham Kinsman. The apple shredder was actually an attachment for the Steinmax garden shredder, which the Kinsman Company markets here in the United States.
The visitors were hoping Mr. Kinsman would see a market for the machine throughout the vast reaches of the US apple-growing country. Instead, Mr. Kinsman, intrigued by the ease with which apple pulp was expelled from the machine, saw another possible use for it. If it could expel pulp dripping with juice, surely it would handle that bane of all garden shredders, wet leaves.
At his suggestion wet leaves were passed through the apple shredder and, sure enough, they came through without clogging the machine. Next, Mr. Kinsman tried wet newspaper, and again the machine passed with flying colors. To the slight mystification of the visiting industrialists, Mr. Kinsman, an avid home gardener himself, danced with delight. He did so again when the prototype leaf shredder, a slightly modified version of the apple shredder, arrived some months later and did an even better job.
Nearly every home has available leaves that are frequently too wet to shred. Also, the most commonplace mulching material available in the city and suburbs is newspaper, which doesn't shred well when dry and clogs conventional shredders when wet.
Four paddles installed directly beneath the blades provide the impetus to expel the wet material. In addition, the new leaf-shredding attachment has a double row of blades (4 heavy precutters are followed by 8 slicing blades) that reduce the leaves to small fragments in short order.
The conventional Steinmax is a small electrically powered (120-volt) garden shredder that will readily process the spent vegetation from an average suburban garden, but not leaves. As a leaf shredder its output is too slow to be practical. The new attachment, however, enables leaves to be processed quickly.
When I tried out the machine here recently, I was able to shred nine bushel baskets of wet leaves in a little more than five minutes. I then passed the shredded material through a second time in less than a minute to get a still finer grind. Wet newspaper went through even more rapidly than the leaves to produce a very fine-textured pulp.
A leaf-feeder tray (221/2 by 19 by 6 inches), which attaches around the mouth of the hopper, is also available.
Leaves, augmented by shredded newspaper, have made up the better part of my garden mulches in recent years. At first I applied the newspaper and then covered it with the more attractive leaves. Later I found that a mixture of leaves and paper produced a pleasant-looking mulch that worked most effectively in the garden. To this end, I tested the leaf shredder as a mixer. Pouring in a scoopful of leaves and newspaper alternately produced a beautifully blended mulch ready for spreading on the garden.
A word of warning: The leaf-shredder blade is not designed for conventional garden shredding and will do an inadequate job if used for that purpose.
Currently, the Steinmax shredder retails for just under $200; the leaf-shredder attachment, including shipping, for $75. For Steinmax suppliers in your area, write: The Kinsman Company, River Road, Point Pleasant, Pa. 18950.