The Best Petrol & Electric Hedge Cutters To Suit Your Budget

Your Complete Guide To Hedge Cutters

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The Best Petrol & Electric Hedge Cutters To Suit Your Budget

Hedges provide a perfect alternative to a fence as a garden boundary. They also create an environmentally beneficial habitat for wildlife and provide structure, colour and texture in the garden. Just like fences, hedges require regular maintenance to stay looking smart.

Hedge maintenance consists of cutting back growth. How much growth you cut back depends on the age of the hedge, the species of the hedging, and the desired result required.

Choosing tools for hedge cutting.

There are two basic options available to you when it comes to cutting your hedge – hand tools and power tools. Hand tools such as shears and secateurs are fine for smaller hedges consisting of thinner stems and for trimming individual shrubs and bushes. When it comes to choosing any manual cutting tool, get the best you can afford. There is a huge difference in quality between the cheapest and the mid to higher priced equipment.

Powered Hedge cutters

Powered hedge cutters are far more suitable for general hedge cutting and come in two flavours – petrol powered and electric.

Electric hedge cutters.

Electric hedge cutters are available in various sizes and power ratings from around 300 watts up to 750 watts. The main advantages of electric hedge cutters (apart from being fairly cheap) are the quiet operation and ease of use – you plug in and away you go. They also tend to be lighter than petrol powered hedge cutters.

The disadvantages are the lack of power compared to petrol machines and the danger of cutting through the power cord. Bear in mind the power cord will also limit your working range, if you have a long garden you will need an extension lead. Always use a circuit breaker with any electrically powered garden tool.

If you want the advantages of an electric hedge cutter without the hassle of a power cord, then a cordless battery powered hedge trimmer may be what you’re looking for.

Choosing an electric hedge cutter

If you want high quality, the Viking range of electric hedge cutters are worthy of serious consideration. Viking are part of German machinery manufacturers Stihl who make some of the best garden and forestry equipment available.

Bosch manufacture a decent and varied range of electric hedge cutters including smaller lightweight electric shears and larger more powerful hedge cutters. Unlike a lot of electric machines, Bosch hedge cutters are ergonomically well designed.

Alko also make some decent budget priced models for the gardener looking for a cheap, good value tool.

Long reach electric hedge trimmers

When it comes to hedge cutting, a bit of extra reach can make a difficult job a whole lot easier and safer. Long reach hedge cutters of the past were typically heavy petrol machines reserved for professionals. However, there are now some decent products on the market catering for the home user and the Gardena electric long reach hedge trimmer offers a lot for the price. See our article on long reach hedge cutters for more options.

Petrol powered hedge cutters.

Powered hedge cutters are far more suitable for general hedge cutting and come in two flavours – petrol powered and electric.

Electric hedge cutters.

For convenience and power, petrol powered hedge cutters reign supreme and are recommended for all larger hedge cutting jobs.

With a petrol hedge cutter, you have total freedom over your movements due to the lack of a power cord, and no power cord means no risk of cutting through it. You can also work in wet weather – not a wise option with an electric hedge trimmer.

The increase in power means petrol powered hedge cutters can cope with thicker, tougher growth easily. This becomes apparent when you leave a hedge for a year or so and find you have thick stems to deal with. Petrol hedge cutters are of a higher build quality generally and will last longer than their electric counterparts.

Buying a petrol hedge cutter

One of the most respected brands for all types of garden machinery is German manufacturer Stihl. Their petrol powered hedge cutters are amongst the best available for home users and professionals alike.

Another brand that’s quietly gaining respect is Japanese manufacturer Tanaka who offer powerful, good quality machines at excellent prices.

Although petrol equipment is generally more expensive than the equivalent electric tool, it is still possible to buy a petrol hedge cutter for under $150/

Long reach petrol hedge trimmers

For tough growth up high, it makes sense to get a petrol powered long reach hedge cutter with an angled cutter head. Many of these machines can be fitted with different accessory heads such as strimmers, chainsaws and tillers.

Although not the cheapest, the Stihl range of long reach hedge cutters is one of the most popular amongst regular users and are available with a choice of engine sizes. See our article on long reach hedge cutters.

Petrol VS Electric Hedge Trimmers


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Main Features To Look Out For on A Trimmer

Regardless of the power-type you have gone for, there are a number of features that also make a difference in the way your trimmer can be used. 

Eye protection is essential so equip yourself with some safety glasses. Small sections of cut stem can be propelled by the cutter blades in any direction. Ear defenders are essential if using a petrol hedge cutter.

Dealing With High hedges

If you have a high hedge, it might be worth purchasing a long reach hedge cutter or an extendible pole hedge trimmer.

These allow you a fantastic reach without the restrictions of working from a ladder. Many long reach hedge cutters have adjustable angled cutter heads to allow the top of the hedge to be cut from the ground. In reality though, if the hedge is taller than 8 feet and more than a couple of feet wide, you will need to get on a ladder to remove the trimmings that remain on the top of the hedge.

Hedge Cutting Basics

The more often you trim your hedge, the easier the task becomes. Species such as privet and bush honeysuckle will need trimming every month or so during the growing season to stay looking smart whilst tree species such as beech, hornbeam, field maple, holly and yew may only need trimming once a year depending on the position and growing habit of the hedge. Hedges of the same species can grow at vastly different rates depending on numerous factors such as position, soil type and climate, so if your hedge produces masses of growth, it will need trimming more often, it’s that simple.

If you want your beech and hornbeam hedges to retain their dead leaves through the winter, give the hedge a trim in late summer. Conifer species will sometimes require two cuts during the year, once in the spring and then again at the end of the summer; again it depends on how vigorous your particular hedge is. When trimming conifer hedges, take care not to remove too much foilage otherwise brown patches will develop.

Always start cutting your hedge from the top working your way down to the base. As you cut, trimmings will snag in the lower parts of the hedge. If you work from the top, the hedge cutter will ‘clean’ the hedge as you go. When using a powered hedge trimmer, slightly tilt the blade at an angle. This will give a better finish, especially on denser hedges such as Lleylandii and yew.

Certain hedges such as privet and box can become top heavy so it’s a good idea to make the base of the hedge wider than the top to aid stability, the same goes for conifer hedges. A narrower top is easier to trim and will also allow more light into the interior of the hedge promoting stronger stems.

If the hedge you are cutting is next to flower beds or shingle, it’s a good idea to lay down some old sheets or tarpaulin. It will save you a lot of time clearing up. This is especially true if the hedge is conifer which can be a nuisance to pick out of flower beds. Alternatively you can use a garden vac if the trimmings aren’t to long.


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