How to use a hedge trimmer

Hedges, bushes, and shrubs can add that razzle-dazzle to your home. They compliment your stonewalls, patios, sidewalks, and even your garden. Most types of hedges are evergreen meaning that they maintain their aesthetic vibrancy all year round. And did you know that hedges, bushes, and shrubs can even increase the resale value of your house, especially if they are neatly trimmed and well maintained? While the value of a hedge is obvious by now, how do you go about maintaining your hedge? Two words: hedge trimmer.

Types of Hedge Trimmers

Just like most gardening tools, you have a few options of hedge trimmers to choose from – depending on your budget and purpose. The basic types of hedge trimmers you’ll find in your local hardware store include battery-powered (cordless), corded electric, gas-powered and hand-held. Whichever type you have, the techniques or best practices of hedge trimming discussed in this article are the same.

But before we start trimming your hedge into a neat piece of gardening artwork, there are a few safety measures to observe – we don’t want to turn hedge trimming into a health hazard.

Precautionary Safety Measures

  • Make sure the weather is conducive: What happens when you are using an electric hedge trimmer, and the rain starts falling? And it’s not just about rainy weather, the position of the sun and wind also influence the experience and outcome of your trimming exercise. It is also important to note that birds nest during the early stages of the spring season.
  • Have you read the safety manual? Don’t be tempted to skim over the safety manual. Although a hedge trimmer is fairly easy to use, it cuts with lightning speed. And you wouldn’t want your finger to be severed just because you didn’t want to dedicate a few minutes to understand the dos and don’ts. Please observe some essential safety tips such as holding the trimmer with both hands, proper assembly, and keeping an eye on trip hazards.
  • Ensure you have appropriate footwear and clothing: Do you have safety goggles? What about gloves and non-slip shoes? It is also important to choose clothing that is tight-fitting, sturdy, and that allows you to move freely. To avoid skin irritation and small cuts by branches, it’s advisable to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts. Accessories such as scarfs are liable to snag on twigs and branches.
  • Inspect and clear the area: inspection includes the surrounding environment as well as the hedge itself. Look out for children running around, bird nests, hidden wires, hoses, and other obstacles. When all these safety tips are observed, you can proceed to the actual task of hedge trimming.

4 Steps to Trim your Hedge like a Pro

As highlighted earlier, the hedge trimming tips and techniques discussed in this article apply to most varieties of bushes and shrubs regardless of the type of hedge trimmer. However, the frequency and attention to detail depending on your personal preference. For example, formal hedges are often trimmed every four months or less, while informal hedges may be trimmed semi-annually to allow a more natural shape. Below are the steps to trim your hedge:

1. Start with the Front Face (Sides)

Start your trimming exercise from the bottom of the hedge as you work your way towards the top. It is advisable to trim the front face of the hedge at an angle in such a way that the bottom is wider than the top. This allows sunlight to reach the lower branches for a uniform, lush, and green look. As you cut, maintain a steady and slow pace while avoiding to cut too deeply into the hedge – trim off a few inches at a time. And don’t forget to keep your feet apart for stability.

2. Trim the Top

Here’s where it gets tricky. For trimming the top of the hedge, you need to maintain a sturdy posture – preferably leaning back while bracing your elbow against your side to accommodate the weight of the hedge trimmer. Hold the trimmer horizontally at a slight angle (10 degrees) and use a wide sweeping motion. Similar to trimming the sides, cut off a little at a time.

What about keeping the hedge line straight and neat? For small and medium length hedges, you can simply use your intuition and trim freehand. But if the hedgerows are long (e.g. hedge fences), you can tie a string on either side of the hedge and use it for accurate measurement.

3. Let’s go Inside the Hedge

Now that we’ve successfully shaped the outside of the hedge, we can work on the twisted branches or excess growth inside With this step, it is important to put on your gloves. You can use manual pruning shears to reach deeper parts or cut tough branches. Trimming dead branches promotes new growth and gives your hedge a fresh look. Now stand back and examine the hedge to ensure it’s even and well-trimmed – if not, go back in for a few finishing touches.

4. Sweep Up

Clean up after yourself! Gather all the trimmed twigs and branches with a rake and find a safe and eco-friendly way to dispose of them. For example, you can drag them to your compost heap. After raking, you can use a broom to sweep the finer leaves and twigs for optimal aesthetic value.

5. Sit Back and Enjoy your Work

Congratulations, you have successfully trimmed a hedge. It is time to gaze upon the fruits of your labor. There is a special feeling of peace and order that comes from having a ’manicured’ hedge. Not to mention the compliments you will receive from your friends and neighbors.