Manufacturers are keeping up with greater legal demands to keep hedges under control.

Whether the hedge is for screening, to keep children in and strangers out or simply a demarcation of property, it will need cutting. And the maintenance of hedges has never before been so important. Legislation on nuisance hedges was passed as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill in November 2003 and came into effect on 1 June 2005.
The Work at Height Regulations came into force at around the same time. For some, this has meant rethinking how hedges are cut. There is also legislation  on noise and emissions, particularly from two-stroke engines.
Fortunately, the designers and engineers of the latest hedgetrimmers are up to speed. The latest models can provide solutions to tall hedges, working with your feet on the ground and keeping engine noise and emissions within the necessary limits.
The right machine for the job will depend on factors such as species, density, amount and frequency of trimming, height and location. In rural situations, and especially where there are extensive lengths bordering highways, a tractor-mounted flail cutter will get the job done quickly. There is a wide range available and choice will largely be dependent on the size and weight of the tractor.
For smaller areas, and at the other end of the scale, shears and clippers are sometimes still appropriate for intricate work. The vast majority of hedges in parks and gardens, however, will require trimming with powered equipment.
Petrol-powered trimmers are recommended for large hedges, although electric models are popular where hours are likely to be spent on the shaping of formal hedges. Electric models have the advantage of being lighter and so are less tiring on the arms, but they require a suitable power source and cables need moving constantly.
While they may be heavier, petrol- powered machines give the freedom to move around a site without extension leads. They also tend to have a greater cutting capacity — often up to twice that of an electric machine.
The size of the hedge will largely determine the power rating and blade length needed for the job. Old, dense hedges will need a more powerful trimmer than one that is cut on a regular basis. A 40cm blade is sufficient for hedges of 1.5m to 1.6m tall. Improved productivity can be expected if a 75cm blade is used on taller hedges.
For tall hedges, consider the possibility of long-reach or pole trimmers. These can come with fixed or articulating heads, the latter allowing the tops to be trimmed by swivelling the cutters to an appropriate angle. If you opt for an adjustable head, check out the number of positions that can be attained.
You also need to decide whether single-sided or double-sided blades are best. Efficiency is a major attraction of double-sided machines as they will cut on both the up and down strokes, horizontally and vertically. However, safety is the main selling feature of single-sided units because it is easier to keep the cutting edge away from your arms and body. They are also the preferred choice for conifer hedges.
For operators expecting to use hedgetrimmers for long periods, comfort is likely to be the main requirement and you should definitely try the goods before you buy. The weight of machines should be checked, as should the balance, but you might also like to look at backpack models, where the weight of the engine is supported by the back, rather than the arms. Remember also that dual reciprocating blades, where the blades move past each other, are likely to have lower levels of vibration.

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