Having a hedge is a way to have the effect of a fence, but with something a bit greener and softer. Unfortunately, you can’t just slap a coat of paint on it every other year to keep it looking good – hedges need trimming on a consistent basis, otherwise they will become unruly, and a bit of an eyesore. Powered hedge trimmers can make quick work of this job, but while they save time, they require quite a bit more maintenance than the old-school lopping shears. They also require more care during operation – the blades can cause serious damage if they catch flesh.
Hedge Trimmer Maintenance
The level of maintenance required is dependent on the type of hedge trimmer you purchase. There are three basic types of powered hedge trimmers: corded electric, cordless electric, and gas-powered. Some of them have replaceable trimmer blades that can’t be sharpened, others have blades that can be sharpened. Replaceable blades should be checked every season and replaced if necessary, while blades that can be sharpened should be sharpened when you notice the trimmer snagging and tearing branches. You won’t even have to take the blades to a specialist, a simple crosscut file can do the job. Just make sure there is no way to accidentally trigger the trimmer before working on the blades – remove spark plugs, disconnect batteries, or make sure the cord is not connected.
All models, regardless of power, need to have all of the screws tightened, paying special attention to the nuts and bolts that attach the handles, blades, and debris shields to the body. These parts are extremely important to ensure that the hedge trimmer doesn’t swing free and cause a safety hazard. The handle breaking loose during use could cause the trimmer to swing towards the body, endangering the user. Also make sure to spray a light coating of oil on the blades before and after winter storage, as well as during the summer.
Cordless electric trimmers don’t need much more in the way of maintenance than that, although making sure the battery doesn’t completely drain over the winter is necessary. Corded electric trimmers also don’t need a great amount of maintenance, although special attention must be paid to the cord, as a frayed cord creates an electrical hazard.
Gas trimmers are more powerful and can chew through hedges much easier, but they also require more maintenance. Remove the spark plug before winter storage, then replace the spark plug before the beginning of the season. Add stabilizer to the fuel before storage and run the engine to distribute the stabilized mixture through the fuel lines and carburetor. During the season, make sure to mix fresh gasoline and two-cycle oil according to the ratio recommended in the owner’s manual to avoid excess exhaust emissions, and fouled spark plugs. Check that the intake vent near a gas trimmer’s carburetor air filter is clear of debris so that the engine runs efficiently. Every few months, thoroughly clean all outer surfaces, and clear all intake and exhaust vents of debris.
Hedge Trimmer Safety
To start with, keep clothing and body parts away from the blades. Simple enough of a task, but often something that gets forgotten when people get too comfortable or confident with a piece of equipment. If you have a corded electric trimmer, take extra care to keep the cord away from the blades, as cutting through the cord can damage the trimmer or lead to a major electrical hazard.
Clothe yourself properly when using a hedge trimmer, just as you would any other lawn care instrument that could throw up debris or cause injury. Gardening gloves and safety glasses are recommended for newer users, but once you are comfortable with how it operates, simple sunglasses should be fine. Louder trimmers will need ear protection.
Finally, how you use it is the most important part of safety. Swing away from your body, don’t cut towards you. Always keep both hands on the hedge trimmer, one-handed trimming will cause you to lose control of the machine. Don’t be tempted to clear away debris with one hand while keeping the trimmer running – stop the trimmer and put it on the ground before clearing the hedges of loose leaves.
By following these safety and maintenance tips, you will ensure that your hedge trimmer works for a long time, and that you won’t fall prey to the blades. When all of these are followed, the hedge trimmer becomes one of the best garden tools you can have.