If your garden hedge strongly resembles your Sunday-morning bed hair, it might be in need of a haircut.
For the novice gardener, hedge trimming may feel slightly overwhelming. With such a huge variety of hedge trimmers on the market, and a lot of different information online, working out how best to create a crisp, tidy hedge can be confusing.
Firstly, choosing the best hedge trimmer will require some thought – it depends what your garden is like as well as your own physical capabilities. Then it comes down to technique as well.
Here’s some useful information to help you find the best hedge trimmer:
Choosing a Trimmer Based on Your Hedges
You’ll need to choose the best hedge trimmer based on your hedge type.
If you have a small hedge and don’t mind a bit of manual work (and potential arm ache), you could just reach for the manual hand shears.
These are the best hedge trimmers for quick, small jobs, especially if there’s the odd rogue branch sticking out. However, if you’re trying to drastically cut back a whole hedge, or it’s longer than a few metres, the best hedge trimmer for the job will be mechanical.
Handheld shears are a good choice for pruning ornamental bushes, but again, they’re not big enough for full hedge trimming.
Electric hedge trimmers with a cutting blade of 30 – 40 cm are the best hedge trimmers for smaller gardens and hedges. You will find that you are able to cut the hedge quickly.
For small hedges, the hedge trimmer’s blade gap (the space between the teeth on the blade) should be between 15 – 20 mm. This will generally mean that the hedge trimmer can cope with branches up to 20 mm in diameter.
You are unlikely to require a telescopic pole hedge trimmer if you only have short hedges.
The best hedge trimmers for a medium hedge will be electric, with a cutting blade over 40 cm long.
If the hedge is mature, you should look for a hedge trimmer which has at least a 30 mm gap between each of the teeth on the blade. If it’s a younger hedge, you may be able to get away with a smaller gap.
Depending on the height of the hedge, you may benefit from a telescopic pole hedge trimmer. This comes down to whether you can comfortably and evenly trim the top of the hedge without one.
For large hedges, the best hedge trimmers will have a blade length of 45 cm+. You can even find hedge trimmers with 70 cm blades which you might consider if you have a lot of big hedges.
Of course, the longer the hedge trimmer’s blade, the more hedge you can cut in one go. However, larger hedge trimmers are heavier machines so you may have to reach a compromise.
Cutting the tops of tall hedges can be made a lot easier by using the a telescopic hedge trimmer. You might find our article on the best telescopic pole hedge trimmers useful if you’ve got a lot of tall hedges.
When buying long, telescopic tools like these, I suggest looking for one with the motor positioned at the handle-end of the tool. Telescopic hedge trimmers can get top heavy if the motor is positioned higher up.
Although electric hedge trimmers will be plenty suitable for large hedges, some might consider using petrol hedge trimmers instead. Petrol hedge trimmers are only worth considering if the hedge has particularly thick, tough branches.
As mentioned above, it’s not always just the physical size of the hedge that’s important, but the size of the branches you’re looking to trim.
These can vary depending on the type of hedge and its age.
Younger hedges will have thinner branches, so a hedge trimmer with a small blade gap (15 – 20 mm) should be sufficient. More mature hedges may have thicker branches, requiring a hedge trimmer with a bigger blade gap of 30 mm+.
Weight and Comfort
Comfort is another factor to consider – especially if you’re going to be holding the hedge trimmer for a long time.
It goes without saying that larger tools, designed for large hedges, will be heavier. If you need a big hedge trimmer, choosing one with a supportive shoulder strap can make a big difference. This will allow the weight of the hedge trimmer to be distributed more evenly across your body.
At the end of the day, you need to feel in control of the hedge trimmer, even if this means getting a smaller one because it’s lighter, and spending longer on a job.
The selection of ‘best hedge trimmers’ featured on this page vary in weight. They weigh between 2 – 5 kg. Holding a 2 kg weight for an extended period is significantly different to holding a 5 kg weight for the same time, so you need to consider your physical capabilities.
As with all power tools, if you find yourself getting sore or tired, take a break and come back to it later. There’s no point risking safety just to try and finish a job quicker. Ultimately, the best hedge trimmer will be the one that you find comfortable to use.
Mains Powered vs Cordless Hedge Trimmers
You generally have three options when it comes to hedge trimmers: corded hedge trimmers, cordless hedge trimmers, and petrol hedge trimmers. For this article, the focus is predominantly on corded hedge trimmers and cordless trimmers. These are the most popular choices for non-professional use around the home.
Petrol hedge trimmers are extremely powerful, but can be too heavy for casual garden work. They are useful for cutting back very thick branches, particularly in areas that are not close to a power source.
Mains-Powered Hedge Trimmers
These are usually lightweight, especially as they have no battery to add additional weight, and can be very powerful.
These are the best hedge trimmers for gardens with small/medium hedges and can often trim branches of up to 45 mm in diameter.
They tend to be lighter than petrol hedge trimmers but also have slightly less power. However, you’ll generally find that a mains-powered trimmer has more power than a cordless model.
The biggest downside of using a corded electric hedge trimmer is being restricted by the cable. Often the power cable is only around 6 m long. Of course, you can use an extension cable, and you don’t have to worry about running out of power, but you do need to be careful.
Accidentally cutting the power cord is a surprisingly common incident. Working with the cable over your shoulder should make this less likely. To protect yourself in case this does happen, use a residual current device (RCD).
Cordless Hedge Trimmers
The main benefit of using a cordless hedge trimmer is that it gives you more freedom to move around your garden compared to a mains-powered machine. However, they often cost more than their tethered cousins.
Although budget cordless hedge trimmers are hard to find, you’ll get a better deal if you buy a bare unit. This is particularly useful if you already own a compatible battery.
Deciding whether a cordless hedge trimmer is right for you will depend on a variety of factors.
Batteries generally last 20 – 45 minutes – this can vary depending on the cordless model. Depending on your garden size, and how many hedges you have, this might be enough or it might be too little.
However, you can often buy more than one battery, so you can charge one whilst using the other. But, of course, this is an additional cost.
If you have a big garden, you might still decide that it’s worth using a cordless hedge trimmer. They can be very convenient. You don’t have to deal with the cable of a mains-powered model, or the weight of a petrol hedge trimmer.
As long as your hedges don’t have very thick branches, a cordless model will be a viable option. Big jobs will just take longer if you have to wait for the battery to recharge.
Staying on Top of Maintenance
Cleaning the Blades
Cleaning the blades of your hedge trimmer is an important, albeit mundane, job. It will help your hedge trimmer to last a long time.
Hedge trimmer blades pick up a huge amount of residue when they are used which can get jammed between the blades. Leaves, twigs and feathers can all build up, which will stop your hedge trimmer from working and drastically reduce its lifespan.
Regularly cleaning the blades of your hedge trimmer is the best way to ensure it lives a long and happy life.
- Ensure the hedge trimmer is switched off and disconnected from the power source.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands around the sharp blades.
- Lay your hedge trimmer on a stable, flat surface.
Then, if you are cleaning your hedge trimmer immediately after use:
- Use a cloth or brush to get rid of as much of the debris as possible, because the debris won’t have had time to settle and stick to the blades.
- Brush as much off as you can, especially in between the blades which is where build up is usually the worst.
Or, if the debris has hardened and stuck to the blades:
- You will need to use soap and water.
- Ensure the blades are completely dry after doing this to prevent rusting and corrosion.
- If soap and water doesn’t work, other recommendations include soaking the blades in white spirit for a few hours. This should dissolve any remaining debris. Wipe off any remnants and then apply a thorough coat of lubricant.
Sharpening the Blades
Sharpening a hedge trimmer should be done regularly. It’s estimated that a hedge trimmer’s blades should be sharpened after every 50 hours of work. Don’t wait until the blades show signs of wear.
- Wear thick gloves.
- Remove any dirt before sharpening.
- Only sharpen the cutting edge.
- Make sure the blades are aligned.
How to Sharpen the Blades
- The best way to sharpen a hedge trimmer is using a flat file.
- Place the file along the edge of the tooth and make long, smooth downwards strokes in the direction of the cutting edge. Maintain the sharpening angle which will be given in the manual.
- Repeat this for all other teeth, making downward strokes only.
Whilst over-sharpening is a risk, it’s unlikely to happen when sharpening the blades by hand – it’s tough enough work just to get them to optimum sharpness!
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