Safety Tips For Hedge Trimming and Pruning

Now, as Michael Caine never actually said, ‘not a lot of people know this but hedges go back a long way.’ Some say the first hedges were grown or made to surround and fence off the land on which cereal crops were being grown and date back to the Neolithic era, around five or six thousand years ago – which is a strange coincidence because that’s about how long it’s been since I trimmed mine thoroughly. Some say they were a result of the clearances of land by Bronze age farmers who left strips of woodland to delineate land.

Then there is decorative hedging. The first example we know in the west of hedges being used as decoration was introduced, of course, by the Romans (is there anything they didn’t bring us apart from turnips and drunkenness?) They were known for trimming hedges into interesting shapes, hence our Western understanding of topiary. There is an Eastern tradition of topiary that runs parallel, although the Chinese were more interested in cutting shrubs to enhance their naturalness, rather than making them look like a dinosaur or an elephant.

These days, hedges are still used as borders, to keep our neighbours away, as a marker for land and for decoration while hedgerows are a valued part of the countryside, harbouring and sheltering flora and fauna that might otherwise be swept aside by the development of land and changing methods of farming and husbandry.

Whatever sort of hedge you have, at some point hedges have to be trimmed and pruned to encourage healthy growth and ensure the shape and wellbeing of the hedge. There are many fine examples of tools to carry out this task, you can see our full hedgetrimmer range here… and this blog by my old chum and grenache guzzler Dick Roberts will point you at some of our finest and Japanese machines. 

and here’s another blog with a fabulous top ten of great value and versatile hedging machines.

But what I want to impart are some simple rules and guidelines for how to approach the job itself. I’ve done it before, but it is always worth repeating, so here are my tips and tops for safe hedge trimming.

  • Make sure you have a decent hedgetrimmer and that it is in good condition. Your ideal domestic hedgetrimmer should feature double-sided, reciprocating blades, and, a swivelling handle to enable you to cut at different angles saving time and ensuring less strain on your hands. To have a look at our guides to buying hedgetrimmers see these pages. 
  • Always check your hedge for obstacles and ESPECIALLY for birds nests. It is now a criminal offence (under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981) to ‘..recklessly disturb certain wild birds or their dependent young while they are nesting (including disturbance of nesting young);’ This means you should check before trimming to make sure you don’t damage or disturb nesting birds during the nesting season, between of 1 March and 31 July.
  • Keep your hedgetrimmers well maintained. Keep the blades sharp and oiled, clean it after every use. Blunted blades are less effective and can be dangerous. If your machine is petrol powered, check it regularly and don’t leave fuel in the tank for long periods. If you have a battery powered trimmer, make sure the batteries are charged well and kept in the right conditions (see these pages on MowHow) 
  • Try to wear as much sensible, protective clothing as you can. Good, tough gardening gloves are recommended as are goggles. You can lose your sight
    Safety Gear – Note Lack of Open-Toed Sandals!

    if a flying twig hits you in the eye. Sturdy, sensible shoes (NO open-toed sandals) well-fitted clothing (nothing loose or flappy that could get caught up in the blades) and ear defenders are also a good idea.

  • Don’t use your trimmer in wet weather. It will not be as effective and, particularly if you have  a mains electric powered hedgetrimmer, it can be dangerous
  • Make sure you are alert, not tired, fully fit and mentally ready when you use hedgetrimmers (or any other garden equipment) Fatigue can be very dangerous and DO NOT drink alcohol before or during a session with hedgetrimmers.
  • If you are using an electric mains-powered hedgetrimmer, always have the cable over your shoulder waving around in front of you Too many people 9including some I k ow) have cut through cables.
  • Never raise tour hedgetrimmer above your head to use it. If the top of the hedge is too high, get a good long-reach hedgetrimmer or use a stable ladder or platform system.
  • Always walk forward along a hedge when you are cutting. NEVER walk backwards. If you trip or slip you will be hurt.;’

And that’s it for today. If you need more information on hedgetrimmers or any other machines, do visit our main site or pay a visit to MowHow, our knowledge base.

Enjoy your garden       Drew Hardy

Impeccable Service from this great company!…we could not be more pleased with their polite and efficient service.‘ D. Bowyer (TRUSTPILOT

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