Remember hedge trimmers are as the name suggests designed to trim your hedge not to cut it down, they are designed to cut the ends of the hedge branches to allow you to keep it neat. If you want to cut the hedge back further or cut it down then you should consider a chainsaw or lopper so you can leave a neat finish.
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What are the different types of hedge trimmer?
Cordless Hedge Trimmer
Cordless hedge trimmers are extremely popular and ideal for the majority of domestic gardening jobs. They are very easy to use, lightweight, quiet and virtually maintenance free. They also allow you to roam around your garden without having to worry about the cable.
Over recent year improvements in battery technology has produced powerful Lithium Ion batteries which provide excellent cutting performance and can on occasion match petrol hedge trimmers. Additionally, these batteries can provide enough run time for most hedge maintenance jobs, and when selecting a cordless hedge trimmer ensure you review the battery run time as there is nothing worse than running out of charge half way through the job. On the plus side if you have the same range of cordless garden tools then you should be able to swap batteries between tools and so provide a longer cutting time whilst charging your spare battery.
Electric Hedge Trimmer
Like the cordless hedge trimmer the electric hedge trimmer is very easy to use, lightweight, quiet and virtually maintenance free, and so are also perfect for the majority of domestic gardens. The main drawback is that this will have an electric cord which isn’t normally very long so will require an extension cable. Additionally, you will need to be extra vigilant when using an electric hedge trimmer to ensure you don’t cut through the cable, and you should ensure the plug is placed in a RCD socket.
Petrol Hedge Trimmer
Petrol hedge trimmers have traditionally been the most powerful, however, cordless are catching up fast. They are commonly used by professionals as they have the freedom to move about without worrying about the cord or the battery running out.
Petrol hedge trimmers are nosier, less environmentally friendly as they produce fumes and can be more expensive than other hedge trimmers.
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What is the Blade Length on a hedge trimmer?
This is the bar with the teeth on it and it moves the teeth backwards and forth to cut the hedge. On average a blade length of 18-24 in (45-60cm) will be ideal, you should remember the longer the blade then the more you can cut with each passing and in theory the faster you will finish, but these trimmers will be heavier and be less manoeuvrable to be able to shape your hedge.
Why is the Hand Guard important?
This is key to ensure you keep your hands away from the cutting blade. Some trimmers have handles which can rotate, the key is to make sure the trimmer feels comfortable in your hand and also is well balanced.
What thickness of branch can a hedge trimmer cut?
The thickness of branch you can cut with a hedge trimmer is dictated by the teeth spacing on the trimmer. The branch will simply need to fit between the teeth to be cut neatly. Hedge trimmers with wider teeth spacing will have a heavier and more powerful motor or engine to ensure it can cut the branch effectively.
Most hedge trimmers will have a teeth spacing of about ¾ inch (20mm) which will be suitable for most garden hedges and allow you to leave the hedge neat with the minimal of effort.
When should I trim my hedge?
For new hedges this should be done to help them form the shape you want and this is typically done in early spring.
For established hedges, then the rule of thumb is that hedge trimming is done from spring through to autumn, typically from March through to the end of August, this is also out with the bird nesting time.
What is a deciduous hedge?
This is a hedge which loses its leaves in autumn, so will generally give you less privacy than an evergreen hedge. Some hedges are partially deciduous such as the beech hedge as their leaves turn brown during winter.
How often should I trim a hedge?This will depend on the type of hedge, we have listed some maintenance advice on the main hedge types:
- Deciduous hedges (hedges which lose their leaves in autumn) - these should be trimmed each summer.
- Conifer (Yew - English) - general trimming should be done twice a year in early June and again in late September this way you will avoid cutting growing shoots.
- Large Evergreen (Laurel – Portuguese) - has a medium growth rate so it is quite easy to maintain and shape and should only need one trim per year in late summer.
- Laurel (Cherry) – Any hard pruning should be carried out in March, while general trimming should be done twice a year in early June and again in late September this way you will avoid cutting growing shoots.
- Box - If your plants are already really bushy then your Box hedge can be pruned once or twice a year between May and August.
- Beech Green – If your beech hedge is looking a bit messy then this can be tidied up in June. With established beech hedges it is ideal to prune these in August so they have enough time to regrow and recover before winter. Cutting back an overgrown beech hedge should be carried out in February.
- Photinia Red Robin - should be trimmed to a formal hedge shape in late winter and early Spring or can be left informal, just being trimmed down in height and width when needed.
- Privet – Green - General hedge trimming should be done twice a year, once in early June and again in late September. It is important to prune at the right time, so as not to remove new growing shoots.
- Leylandii – Green - should be trimmed in spring as soon as the weather warms up, although this can be left until summer as long as there have been no dry spells and the weather isn't very hot. Also Leylandii will not re-grow from old wood, so it cannot be left to get out of hand and then trimmed down to size.
- Western Red Cedar - General hedge trimming should be done twice a year, in spring and again in early autumn.
Important Safety Advice when using hedge trimmers
- Make sure you have the appropriate safety equipment and clothing.
- Wear eye protection as leaves and twigs will shoot out from the blade.
- Wear strong gloves as you will have your hands close to the hedge and also these will protect you from the twigs and branches being cut.
- Ear protection if you have a nosier petrol hedge trimmer.
- Suitable shoes, if you are climbing a ladder then your footwear should have a good grip.
- Keep lose clothes tucked in and be carefully with jewellery that is doesn’t get caught.
- Never use your hedge trimmer in the rain or in the dark.
- If you are using an electric hedge trimmer make sure the cable is behind you and be extra vigilant that you don’t accidentally cut the cable.
- For electric hedge trimmers make sure you are connected to a RCD socket to ensure if you have an accident the toll will cut off immediately.
- Do not over reach when using your hedge trimmer.
- If using ladders make sure it is on an even surface and have someone support it.
- Begin cutting at the bottom of a hedge and slowly work up to the top. Use a steady, slow pace.
- When cleaning your hedge trimmer make sure the power source is off and can’t be accidentally turned on.
- Check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance on lubricating the blades, but if required apply a little lubricant along the length of the blade and briefly turn the trimmer on to ensure it is spread evenly along the cutting teeth.
- Store your hedge trimmer in a suitable place away from damp or water and away from children.