We often get asked can you cut branches with a hedge trimmer. The answer in theory is yes, but there are a few things to consider before you start.
When you think about trimming your hedges you may assume that any hedge trimmer will deal with any hedge. That is not the case, you need to have a look at your hedges and assess what type of hedge you have, how big it is and how thick the branches are.
If you are looking to buy a hedge trimmer because your hedges have grown out of control, there is a good chance that you will have some pretty thick branches to cut through. If this is the case then it is worth reading this article and make sure you get a suitable model.
Often old hedges can be made up of a number of types of variety, after a few years the growth at the bottom becomes sparse and the branches thicken up. If you try to tackle this with a small electric trimmer it will be a very difficult task.
Features To Consider When Trimming Thick Branches
When looking for the best hedge trimmer for thick branches, there are certain features there are designed for dealing with the more stubborn branches. If you have a Yew hedge or something similar to get back into a nice shape then these will be important.
A key feature to look for is a hedge trimmer with a saw blade function. This is generally located at the end of the blade or cutting bar. This enables you to saw through parts of the hedge that the normal teeth of the cutter are struggling to deal with. It will save you a lot of time, if you don’t have this function you will have to stop work and get a saw before you can carry on. Cordless models like the Bosch AHS 50-20 LI Cordless will saw through medium size branches up to 25mm thick which will get you through some pretty big hedges. If you need something with even more cutting capacity, the Bosch AHS 70-34 will allow you to cut through branches up to 35mm thick. If you are buying an electric hedge trimmer this is an important feature to consider.
Spacing Between The Teeth
This is another important factor to look at. If you have a small hedge trimmer with a narrow gap between the teeth, it won’t be able to get around the thicker branches to cut them. Many of the smaller models are designed to keep small hedges tidy at regular intervals, not cut back well established hedges with much thicker growth. A hedge trimmer with wide teeth will give you a much better chance of cutting more of the hedge without having to use a saw. To cut bigger hedges you really want to aim for a gap of around 20mm or above, the Dewalt DCM563PB-GB has a tooth gap of 19mm which will tackle some medium sized branches but the Bosch AHS 70-34 has a tooth gap of 34mm which is a considerable difference. You will definitely notice this if you hit some old, established growth.
Blade (Cutting Bar) Length
The chances are if you have an old hedge with thick growth to tackle it is probably quite thick as well. If this is the case make sure you measure the thickness of the hedges and get a blade length that is appropriate. The length of hedge cutter blades varies massively. Some of the basic electric models can be 45 cm long or less where as the Hyundai HYT2622-3 petrol hedge cutter has a very long blade at 72 cm long.
An obvious point but one that you may not have considered. Make sure you keep the blades sharp. The sharper they are the easier they will find it to get through the tough bits of hedge. Use hedge trimmer blade oil to keep the blades in good condition. If you are regularly tackling thick and old hedges the blades will go blunt fairly quickly. A local garden machinery shop should be able to sharpen the blades or you could do it yourself if you know how.
Petrol Vs Electric
Generally we would advise people to buy a petrol hedge cutter if you have old thick hedges to cut. The petrol engines are generally a lot more robust than the electric motors and will give a lot more power. Large well established hedges can put a lot of pressure on the hedge trimmer motor and the electric motors can be prone to overheating and even burning out. I have come up against a number of thick branches with electric models where the motor has just stopped. The petrol engines are designed to last for a long time and provide a lot of power. Brands like Stihl, Hyundai and McCulloch are experts at building petrol engines for powerful garden tools. If you think that you will be tackling overgrown hedges with thick branches a lot of the time one of these brands would be a a good place to start looking.
Anti Vibration Systems
This may not seem like it would relate to cutting thick branches but it you are trying to trim back a dense hedge, you will be holding the cutter for a long period of time and it will move about as it tries to get through the tougher growth. This feature is going to make it a lot easier on you arms and hands, a lot of vibration can make your arms ache quickly.
Old Deciduous Hedges
Many old properties have mixed deciduous hedging made up of Beech, Hawthorn, Berberis and other varieties. These can make fantastic looking hedges but can easily get out of control and over grown, they need to be kept under control.
If you are looking to get a hedge like this under control, then you may need a number of tools as well as your trimmer. To get a good finish, you will more than likely need a set of garden loppers and a saw as well. If you keep hacking away at the hedges with a trimmer that cannot really handle the thickness of the branch it will split and tear the branches leaving them looking untidy.
A well trimmed hedge can be shaped to look really nice ready for the spring growth. Once you have cut out all of the thick and tough growth it will be a much easier job to regularly trim the hedge and keep it looking nice.