Hedge Trimming can involve power tools, fast moving blades, thorny plants and working at height, so it’s important to know how to trim your hedges safely.
Here are the basic principles to stay safe while trimming a hedge:
- Wear Safety Goggles And Gloves
- Keep Your Tools Clean And Sharp
- Read The Manual
- Stabilise Ladders And Platforms
- Remove Obstacles Before Starting
- Use The Right Tool The Right Way
- Take Regular Breaks
Let’s dive into this list so that you can feel confident in tackling your hedges and borders with safety.
Wear Safety Goggles And Gloves
The single most important piece of safety advice when gardening is use goggles and gloves.
When you’re using powered or manual blades on plants, bits will fly everywhere, from plant debris to sap and juices; goggles keep flying shrub skin from landing in your eyes. I cannot emphasise the importance of goggles strongly enough!
I’ve got a guide to safety goggles here, so you will know what to buy – no excuses!
Equally you owe it to yourself to protect your hands and there are a wide range of gardening gloves available that will give you the flexibility you’ll need while providing necessary protection. To understand what you might want, check out my guide to gardening gloves!
Keep Your Tools Clean And Sharp
Sharp, clean tools create sharp clean cuts. If you have to spend time fighting with your tools to get through plant matter, either because the blades have become dull or they are covered in sticky substances, you run the risk of injuring yourself or causing muscle strain. You’re also more likely to do a bad job with the plant.
Before you begin trimming, ensure the blades of your chosen tool are sharp and well lubricated, so less effort is needed. The secret to success comes from making sure you clean your equipment after you finish a job, as this will avoid gunky build ups and make it easier to keep the blades sharp.
Furthermore, clean tools minimise the risk of spreading disease among your plants, and if you are working on diseased or dying plants, the need for cleanliness is paramount!
If you need help on cleaning and maintaining your hedge trimming equipment, I’ve got you covered!
Read The Manual
This is a contentious issue for many, but all power tools will have a manual and that manual will often explain the best ergonomic ways to use the tools. By this I mean the most natural movements to use when operating the machine.
The manual will also explain what safety mechanisms are in place for using the machine, and usually have a troubleshooting section in case you have problems in the middle of a job.
Thankfully most big tool companies also use YouTube to explain further so you should be able to see your tools in action, something that will help you avoid accidental injury.
Stabilise Ladders And Platforms
When shearing large hedges or trimming tall topiary, spend time making sure you have stable platforms and ladders to reach the tallest foliage, and you will save time wobbling or worrying.
While it is tempting to rest your ladder against your plant and crack on, some simple principles will stop you from falling – not a good idea when using bladed tools!
- Try to make sure someone knows you’re up a ladder in case of emergencies. If they can hold the ladder, that’s great, but at a minimum, you want someone to be aware of what you’re doing.
- Never put a ladder on a sloped surface. A suitably sized piece of wood can provide a stable base and you should use a rope to secure the ladder to prevent it slipping.
- Never over-reach when using a ladder. If you need extra height, consider hiring a more suitable tool, and if you have more width to cover, move the ladder.
- Do not stand on the top three rungs of a ladder. These should be reserved for holding with your hands.
Remove Obstacles Before Starting
The last thing you need when making smooth strokes with your hedge trimmer is to trip over an object at your feet. Preparation of the area before you start working will save you time during and after the task in hand.
Use groundsheets to cover the drop zone and you’ll save a lot of time after the job is finished, as these will catch most of the debris.
As you apply the groundsheets, move any items that could be a trip hazard, and take note of uneven ground and other issues that might get in your way.
Use The Right Tool The Right Way
Getting the right tool for the task in hand is vital to success and it’s safe to say that you can potentially injure yourself by using secateurs to do big jobs, or a chainsaw to trim a hedge, so resist the temptation to use what’s at hand rather than what’s appropriate.
Trimming tools can be hand-held shears, electro-powered shears, petrol powered shears, and more depending on the size of the hedge. Use hand-held shears for smaller hedges and the long-handled electric or petrol driven shears for larger hedges.
Here are the key points to note:
- Keep powered shears below your shoulder height when trimming large hedges. The aim is stability; maintaining your state of equilibrium. When you are on a ladder and moving shears on top of your head, you become much unstable and at high risk of tumbling down.
- Use long-handled shears for less effort – the broader range of motion gives you more force when cutting. They also give you the ability to cut thorny bushes from a safe distance away.
- Observe electric safety rules. Avoid using electric shears on damp hedges – either use hand shears or just let the plant enjoy the drink and come back on another occasion. Additionally, keep the insulated cable away from the shears; to avoid cutting it accidentally, keep it over your shoulders.
Take Regular Breaks
One of the biggest risks in working with bladed tools is tiredness. It can be hard work trimming hedges by hand, or using power tools for a prolonged period.
You should check the progress of your work regularly, to make sure your edges are straight – when doing cube topiary, for example – and if you can make a habit of doing some simple stretches and having a drink while you do so, you will greatly reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
Keeping your energy up with proper nutrition and hydration might sound a bit over the top, but a keen mind and a well fuelled body will work in harmony and you are more likely to get the job done quickly and effectively.
If you have a big job to do, consider breaking it into smaller pieces of work. You don’t want to run out of time/energy/daylight if possible.
So there you have it. Taking time to implement these ideas will make your garden maintenance work easier, and safer. Gardening is meant to be a pleasure, so do what you can to remove the pain and you’ll get a lot more out of it.