Almost everyone plants Thuja Green Giant as a hedge, or a screen. Trimming is part of the routine of keeping your hedges neat and tidy, and to do that well, a power trimmer is a great addition to your arsenal of gardening tools. It is worth buying a good-quality unit, as the savings in time and frustration will soon cover any extra dollars involved.
Traditionally, the choices were between gasoline and electric trimmers, but today there are machines on the market that bring some interesting new options. If you have used a gasoline trimmer, then you know about the noise and smell they create. Added to that is a growing awareness of the environmental impact of the CO2 emissions as well. So while gasoline has the advantage of portability, these issues mean that gas trimmers are not as desirable as they once were.
The second choice was electric, but the long cord trailing across the yard is always a problem, especially when you end up cutting it, bringing your trimming, and often all other household activities as well, to an abrupt halt. The relative peace and quiet were always a good quality, but that darned cord is a serious issue.
In the past few years, as batteries have come to be used in more and more of our household items, battery trimmers have hit the market. These offer portability and quiet operation, but do they have the power and endurance needed for all but the smallest hedge?
While prices have fallen a lot since their initial introduction, they still remain higher than for conventional trimmers, so you want to be sure you are getting value for money. What are the key features to look for?
Right away, you should choose a trimmer with a Lithium battery, not a nickel-cadmium one, if you want reasonable endurance for your trimmer. Most Thuja Green Giant hedges are substantial, so you will need the extended time to get the job done in one go. If you trim a lot in one day, then having a spare battery, or one that will re-charge in less than an hour, is a way of extending your time on a smaller machine, so make sure you can by the battery separately.
A longer cutting bar has two advantages. It cuts a bigger area, so you finish the job more quickly. It also gives you more reach, so when trimming higher up, or doing the top, you can reach farther without such a tall ladder, and you need to move the ladder more often. All these things add up to faster, more efficient trimming, so go for the longest bar you can. 24 inches is idea, but you may end up trading a few inches in return for a better machine.
Weight and Balance
The big drawback with lithium-battery trimmers is the weight, which comes mainly from the battery itself. It’s impossible at this stage of the technology to have both light-weight and a powerful cutter, so be aware that you will be holding a heavier trimmer. Smaller machines weigh in at around 6 pounds, and the weight rises to almost 12 pounds in the most powerful ones. On a power basis, they are usually lighter than a gas machine, but heavier than an electric. Think too about where the battery is positioned, since you are waving a trimmer around a lot, and you need good balance to make that less tiring.
Let’s look at four top trimmers and see how they stand up:
BLACK+DECKER LHT2220 20V Lithium Ion Hedge Trimmer, 22″
This is the top-selling trimmer on Amazon, and with a price well below $100, it deserves its position. However the battery only has an estimated running time of 40 minutes, so it really only works for boxwood hedges and individual shrubs around the garden. A large hedge is beyond its ability. The slightly more expensive LHT321FF has a more powerful battery, dubbed the ‘Powercommand’, and offers longer life, but still the limitation of only 20 volts.
BLACK+DECKER LHT2436 40V 24″
This is a more powerful trimmer, with a larger, 40 volt battery that will trim both sides of a 300-foot hedge, 10 feet tall, on a single charge. Not only that, but the battery charges in one hour, so while you stop for lunch you can bring it back to a full charge. The main drawback with both the Black+Decker trimmers is that they cannot handle heavier branches, so you need to trim your hedges regularly. That way you are only cutting light-weight material, which these trimmers handle well.
Stihl HSA 66
The Stihl brand pioneered battery trimmers, and while other brands might be catching up, they certainly remain on top of the game. Voted the Best Cordless Trimmer by consumer test sites, this machine has the power to cut through heavy material, and the balance to make that an easy job. Even with the smallest of its range of batteries, it will run almost 90 minutes, and with the strongest AR900 battery, it will last almost 8 hours. That option is probably only of interest to professionals, but the ability to choose the battery that suits you best is a big plus for this machine. Of course, there is a price to pay for the best, over $200 for the machine, plus up to the same again for the most powerful battery and charger. Still, if you want a machine that will handle the biggest overgrown hedge, this is the machine you want.
DEWALT 20-Volt 5.0Ah Battery MAX 22 in
If you don’t feel you need the full power of a Stihl machine, then this could be your best choice. Only $200 with the battery included, this machine will cut through ¾ inch branches, so if you haven’t trimmed your hedge for a while, you will be fine with this powerful machine. The battery will not give you anything like the time of the Stihl, but for most of us, that is not so important, as if we run out of power we can just come back the next day and finish up.
In the end, like so much in life, you get what you pay for. If your hedges are relatively small, the B+D options will probably work well for you. For larger, tougher hedges, the Dewalt or Stihl machines seem to be the way to go. Happy hedge trimming!