As we head into spring, it's prime time for neatening up your hedges ready for enjoying your outdoor space.
If you're in the market for a new hedge trimmer, read our tips on features you should look out for to make the job easier. Remember to always check your hedge for signs of active bird's nests before you trim as it's illegal to disturb them.
The longer the blade, the more you will be able to cut with each sweep. However, longer blades are generally trickier to manoeuvre. For most gardeners, a 45-60cm blade is suitable.
For tall or overgrown hedges, their sheer size will mean they can take hours to trim, and it can be hard to reach the top of tall hedges. A longer blade over 45cm will speed up cutting.
Also consider the teeth spacing because their twigs tend to be thick and woody as many are plants that would naturally grow into trees, such as conifers, beech or hawthorn. The distance between the teeth determines the size of the branches you can cut; the larger the tooth gap, the bigger the cuts you can make.
Many have a fairly restricted width of up to 20mm between teeth, which is fine for an annual trim of a typical garden hedge, or for twiggy hedges such as privet. You will often see claims that the hedge trimmer can cut stems up to 33mm, but in practice we would not recommend using a hedge trimmer to cut such thick branches. If your hedge has branches larger than around 10mm, you will achieve a neater finish with loppers.
If you have a limited amount of hedge to cut or smaller hedges, a cutting blade up to 45cm is the best option.
If you have lots of tall hedges that need cutting frequently, it's worth considering a long-reach hedge trimmer (also known as pole or extendable-pole hedge trimmers). These allow you to cut tall hedges from the safety of the ground, without the risk of climbing a ladder.
They have fixed or extendable shafts which let you cut the side of a hedge above head height. The blade can also be set at various angles so you can cut the top while standing on the ground.
Long-reach trimmers can feel harder to control when cutting very high hedges as the blades are a long way from your body. Cordless models tend to be lighter and better balanced than petrol or electric corded but bear in mind that long-reach trimmers can be difficult to use over longer periods of time for anyone less physically fit.
Check the length of the blade as long-reach trimmers tend to have shorter blades (45cm or below) which could mean it will take you longer to cut a wide hedge as you'll be cutting less off in a single sweep. You could be better off with a platform ladder designed for hedge cutting and an ordinary hedge trimmer.
A rotating handle means you can rotate the blade, which allows you to hold the trimmer in its normal position while cutting either horizontally or verticallyu200b resulting in a more comfortable experience.
It also makes it easier to hold your trimmer at different angles when you're manoeuvring around a fence or wall.
Wraparound handles with an 'on' switch that runs around the length of the handle makes it easy and more comfortable to change from cutting the sides to the tops of hedges, helping you cut more efficiently.
Cutting hedges can be a messy task, as you'll create a lot of trimmings. Place a tarpaulin along the base of the hedge and move this around the garden as you work to collect the trimmings.
For lower maintenance, choose a hedge trimmer with a catcher plate as this will stop you needing a leaf rake to pull any strays off the hedge. Catcher plates are a piece of plastic or metal that can be attached along the length of the blade to sweep away cuttings while you trim.