Hedging my bets to hedge my best
April 15, 2010 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Do I need a hedge trimmer to trim my hedge (as opposed to a small chainsaw or a variety of hand tools, etc.)?

Pretty much what it says on the tin: I have some seriously overgrown (we're talking 8-12') hedges that I want to get down to about 6' (after talking to my neighbours, obviously) to get some sun on my lawn.

I recently bought a 12" battery-powered chainsaw, figuring it could do double duty as something to cut through the "trunks" of the upper end of the cedars; I have a manual limb-lopper and a few pairs of shears at my disposal, too.

The chainsaw was a bust and I'm going to return it. Should I seek out an electric hedge trimmer? Would it be able to handle the largish "trunks" of the bigger cedars in the hedge? And with about 60 linear feet of hedge to trim, is an electric tool really much more efficient/effective than trimming manually using shears and a limb lopper?

I'm not looking for "pretty," just "functional," and I know my neighbours feel the same way.
posted by Shepherd to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't actually have an electric trimmer, but the ones I've seen wouldn't handle much of a "trunk". I would be surprised if they could cut a 1" diameter limb.

I do have a very small hedge (one bush, really), and while my manual trimmer is just fine (I'm not going to replace it), it is not negligible to trim my single bush. I would use the lopper for the big stuff and get an electric for the rest.
posted by OmieWise at 7:16 AM on April 15, 2010

Should I seek out an electric hedge trimmer?


Would it be able to handle the largish "trunks" of the bigger cedars in the hedge?

Do you mean branches? Or actual trunks? Either way, no - you need limb clippers for ones up to a few inches and a hand saw or more powerful for something beyond a few inches.

And with about 60 linear feet of hedge to trim, is an electric tool really much more efficient/effective than trimming manually using shears and a limb lopper?

Yes, far more effective than trimming manually - maybe it will take 10% as long? You still need true clippers to handle branches or bigger.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 7:17 AM on April 15, 2010

A hedge trimmer, especially an electric one, isn't going to be able to cut through larger branches; it's more a maintenance tool for keeping the edges of a hedge tidy and shaped over time. (Think of it sort of like a handheld lawnmower.)

So it won't help you cut the hedge down from twelve feet to six feet, but it would help you maintain the hedge at six feet from then on.
posted by ook at 7:20 AM on April 15, 2010

Yeah, 1" would be pushing it. I use an electric trimmer on some damned privets that I really need to pull out (as well as a bunch of hollies that I like), and anything more than about a half to three-quarters of an inch is sort of pushing it.

For the big stuff, a pair of lopping shears. When those are too small, a saw, and from there, to a chainsaw.
posted by jquinby at 7:22 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Generally, a hedge trimmer is built to easily handle stems up to about 1/4", and maybe a few up to 1/2" if you're too lazy to cut them with loppers. But you'll find yourself sawing backwards and forwards, and end up with untidy ragged cuts.

I think if you have really thick stems, you need to bite the bullet and go along the hedge and lop/saw all the stems down to at least a few inches (I'd probably go for a foot) lower than you want the new level of the hedge to be. That way it'll grow back up to the desired height with nice fine stems. That'll make it far easier to trim in future if you don't have the stubby ends of cut branches all along the top.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:39 AM on April 15, 2010

Even if the hedge trimmer is a bust for this initial trim from 8-12' to 6', it will be used multiple times a year. I also have about 50' of linear hedge that's 4'-6' high (we let it rise further from the edge of the property. Up until now, it's taken me about 2 hours to trim it. My shoulders get tired, I'm sweating in the sun, and it sucks enough that I let it get more wild than I'd like. Even better, it seems like one of the near by neighbors waits until I'm trimming the hedge, and then they use their electric clippers on their hedge. They have just as much, but it seems like it takes 20 minutes instead of two hours of suck.

Part of it could be that our hedge is between 3.5' and 5' wide; but if your hedge is up to 12' tall, I'm guessing it's not some trivial 1' wide hedging.

I have a manual reel lawn mower, and I like it. I like that it's more quiet, don't have to worry about chords, gas, or it breaking down. I'm just the sort of person who likes manual implements more than the power variety. But I *hate* trimming the hedge. And we have a pretty good hedge clipper; I'm not using an inappriate tool.

This spring we used some of the tax refund for an electric hedge trimmer, and I can't wait to use it. If you're going to be maintaining the hedge, seriously get an electric hedge trimmer.
posted by nobeagle at 8:20 AM on April 15, 2010

How often are you going to be doing this sort of job? IME, it often makes sense to rent a professional tool that's more than adequate for the job I'm only going to be doing occaisionally than to purchase something homeowner grade. I'd look around for something like a Stihl hedge trimmer and rent or borrow it for the afternoon to get the job done quickly and easily.

After the major whacking back of the hedge, manual tools should be adequate, depending on your patience.
posted by stet at 8:34 AM on April 15, 2010

No way. To get those trunks you'll need something like an electric pole saw. (chainsaw on a stick)

The various trimmers aren't for this kind of maintenence, they're just for trimming and shaping.

FWIW, my back yard is enclosed by 10 ft hedges and every couple of years I have to bring them down a couple of feet.
posted by snsranch at 9:14 AM on April 15, 2010

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