Machinery & Mowers

Strimmers and Brush Cutters

Strimmers (or line trimmers) utilize a spinning nylon cord to trim grass and vegetation around borders and other tight spaces that cannot be easily reached with a lawn mower. Some strimmers are fitted with two nylon cords for better performance. The cord is contained in a spool within the strimmer head and can be fed out as the cord wears. Some models do this automatically. Eventually, you will need to purchase a new spool of cord.

When choosing a strimmer, consider the size of the swathe head, i.e. the width of the cutting area. Smaller cutting swathes are more suitable for confined areas.

Electric and battery cordless strimmers

For most gardens, an electric strimmer is perfectly adequate. They are lightweight, quiet and available for under £25. However, unless you opt for a battery powered cordless strimmer the power cord will restrict movement in larger gardens.

If you’re looking for an electric strimmer, two ranges worthy of consideration are the Viking models which are made by German machinery experts Stihl, and the Bosch range.

Petrol Strimmers

For heavier work, or clearing large areas, a petrol strimmer or petrol brush cutteris more suitable. In addition to nylon cord, many can be fitted with different metal blades for tackling brambles, brush and small trees.

Two well respected brands of petrol driven strimmer are Honda and Kawasaki.

Multi purpose models can serve as hedge cutters, pruners, soil tillers and power brooms through the addition of various attachments. If you have a large garden to maintain, these models make perfect sense as you only need one engine to power a range of tools.

For really tough growth, consider a wheeled trimmer or a field and brush mower.

Always wear eye protection when using strimmers and take care when working near to shingle or stony ground as it’s very easy to break a window with flying debris.

Machinery & Mowers

Garden Shredders and Chippers

Whatever work you carry out in the garden, it seems you can’t avoid creating a pile of green waste. Why not get a garden shredder or chipper and turn that green waste into something useful?

Chippings

Chippings are produced from thicker stemmed material being passed through a wood chipper. As the material is fed into the machine, sharp blades cut the material across the grain of the wood to produce chips. Wood chip is not really suitable for composting as it takes to long to decompose but it can be used as a mulch around plants and as a ground covering in play areas and on paths.

Shredded garden waste.

A garden shredder works in a different way to a chipper. Rather than cutting across the grain of the material, a garden shredder will cut and crush the material along the grain. This is essential in helping the material to rot quickly. Shredded material can be mixed into the compost bin to further decompose. It can also be spread on the surface of beds and borders as a mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Compost is decomposed material ideal for digging into flower and vegetable beds. It’s role is to add nutrients to the soil to aid the healthy growth of plants, shrubs and vegetables. Compost can be created from kitchen waste such as vegetable scraps, tea bags, egg shells and from garden waste that has been processed with a shredder.

Shredder, chipper or both?

It all depends on what material you will be recycling and what you want to achieve with the processed material. If you have mainly leaves, twigs and hedge cuttings and you want to make compost, then a dedicated garden shredder will suffice. Some of the better electrically powered shredders will handle branches up to around 35-40 mm in diameter. Always check the maximum diameter of waste the shredder is able to process to ensure it’s suitable for your needs.

If you’re looking for a good value machine to shred the majority of garden waste, there is a range here worth looking at.

Quiet electric garden shredders

Many manufacturers seem intent on keeping your neighbours happy by producing garden shredders that operate a reduced noise levels.

Atco electric shredders are renowned for quiet operation whilst shredding material up to 35mm in diameter. A reverse feature is also included. Also worth considering are the Bosch range.

Mountfield make a ‘quiet’ electric shredder capable of shredding material up to 40mm in diameter. This machine also incorporates a reverse function to clear blockages – a useful facility not found on many cheap shredders.

 

Garden chippers

If you want to process larger woody material for use as a ground covering, then a chipper may be best option. Some machines combine both a chipper and shredder, usually as petrol powered units.

Masport are a well respected brand for many types of garden machinery and this model combines both chipper and shredder capabilities.

The Allen Mighty Mac is another popular petrol powered shredder/chipper combination machine which will chip branches up to 75mm in diameter and shred brushwood. Two engines are offered – a 6hp and a 10hp.

Heavy duty garden shredders.

There are dedicated shredders that can handle thicker material allowing you to compost all of your garden waste. Eliet shredders are well known for the fine shredded material produced from all types of garden waste some Eliet models are capable of shredding branches up to 50mm in diameter. For serious shredding, be sure to investigate the Eliet Major Pro.

Machinery & Mowers

Rotavators and Cultivators

Rotavator, tiller or cultivator? Whatever you call them, they all do essentially the same thing – churn and break up soil in preparation for planting, leveling, turfing and seeding. Like most power tools, they come in all shapes and sizes with a varying degrees of capability.

The three main types of cultivators are:

Front tine cultivators

These machines are mid range machines and will usually have the tines (the metal blades that actually churn the soil) mounted in front of the wheels. However, some medium duty cultivators have no wheels.

Rear tine cultivators

Bigger, self driven rotavators are rear tine machines and will have the digging apparatus mounted behind the wheels.

Mini cultivators

Mini cultivators often have no wheels and are designed for working smaller areas such as borders and vegetable beds.

Small electric cultivators

The smallest cultivators are electrically powered and are meant for light use in and around flower beds. They are essentially an electric blender on a pole and will till the soil to a depth of a few inches. They are not really capable of deep-digging vegetable beds or breaking up turf but they are great for aerating the soil, weeding, and mixing in compost.

One such machine is the ALKO GPH 250 which offers a working width of 16cm up to a depth of 18 cm. Powered by a 250watt motor, the ALKO GPH 250 weighs only 4.8kg making it easy to use for the vast majority of gardeners.

Medium duty petrol and electric cultivators

The middle of the road machines cater for the majority of users who have small plots of land requiring frequent cultivation such as vegetable beds. Cultivators in this market are either electric or petrol powered and are capable of a reasonable depth of tilth, normally around 6-10 inches. Models are available both with and without wheels for transportation.

Offering superb value for money at well under a hundred pounds, the Mowerland electric cultivator pictured below features a powerful 750 watt motor and is capable of cultivating to a depth of 9 inches. At only 7.5 kg, this Mowerland cultivator is lightweight enough for anyone to use, but powerful enough for the majority of digging tasks.

Mantis Tiller

A hugely popular choice of cultivator is the Mantis tiller which is available in both petrol and electric versions and can accept a range of accessories such as a lawn scarifier, lawn edger, aerator and crevice cleaner. The Mantis tiller will cultivate to a depth of 10 inches producing a fine workable tilth in preparation for planting, seeding and leveling. Two petrol engines are offered with the Mantis, a 21cc two stroke and a 25cc Honda 4 stroke.

Cultivating larger areas.

If you’ve got a large area of heavy soil or an hard area of turf that needs breaking up, then a larger rear tine machine will be necessary. An engine size of at least 4.5hp and a working width of 500mm will make larger jobs a lot easier and quicker. A reverse gear is also essential with these heavier machines. Worth a look is this Husqvarna heavy duty rotavator and the MTD range of cultivators.

When using a rotavator to break up hard compacted ground, go over the area several times rather than trying to deep dig the ground on a single pass.

Rotavators with counter rotating tines

Counter rotating tines will help prevent ‘run away’ when using a self driven rotavator. Run away occurs when the tines dig into the ground and rather than churn the soil, they propel the machine forwards. This normally happens when the ground is hard and compacted. Counter rotating tines help to combat this by spinning in the opposite direction to the wheels.

Machinery & Mowers

Garden Vacs and Blowers

Like most garden power tools, garden vacuums and blowers come in two flavours – petrol powered and electric.

Garden vacs (blower vacs) are used for the collection of leaves, sawdust and grass cuttings; most models can also cope with smaller twigs. They are fitted with a collection bag for the debris and often have a shredding system for breaking down leafy material. Garden vacs are also very handy for clearing up litter and many models can be quickly converted for use as a blower.

Clearing a heavy Autumn fall of leaves from your lawn is important to prevent the grass becoming smothered. If you mow regularly, it is possible to simply use the mower to collect the leaves.

Electric garden vacs come in a variety of power ratings up to around 2500W. Decent models are available for well under a hundred pounds from brands such as Alko and Mowerland.

Another manufacturer with a good electric and petrol powered range at reasonable prices is Ryobi.

If it’s just a garden blower you need without the vacuum facility, take a look at these models from Echo.

Petrol garden vacs and blowers provide total freedom (no power cord) and one of the best ranges is made by Stihl.

If it’s mainly leaves that you need to clear up, a manual push leaf sweeper may be ideal – no electric cable and no fumes.

For the really large garden, the range of petrol powered wheeled leaf vacuums and sweepers will save you hours of work. These are available in push and self propelled versions for use on a variety of surfaces. Many models are designed for dealing with both garden debris and litter. The Billy Goat range are particularly effective. Electric wheeled leaf vacuums are also available.

Garden vacs are useful tools in the production of mulch and compost for your garden. If you have a large amount of leaves to clear each autumn, a shredding vacuum will assist in the preparation of compost. Leaves will decompose better if they are shredded before going into the compost bin. Shredded leaves can also be used as mulch spread over the surfaces of beds and borders.

Machinery & Mowers

Telescopic and Long Reach Hedge Cutters

Long reach hedge cutting tools

The first long reach hedge cutters were heavy, cumbersome  petrol powered machines reserved for the professional contractor, but as manufacturers have turned their attention to the home user market, machines have become lighter, cheaper and much better designed.

Long reach hedge cutters and trimmers are the ideal tools for maintaining taller hedges without the need for a ladder. The range of machines available include basic telescopic electric models for the home user through to more powerful fixed length petrol powered units ideal for everyday use.

Electric telescopic long reach hedge cutters

Gardena THS 400 & THS42

Fully extended, the Gardena THS400 offers 180cm (5ft 11″) of reach for trimming hedges and shrubs. The shaft is telescopic, which means you can adjust the overall length to suit the job in hand. The angled cutter head on the THS400 is adjustable through 84 degrees for cutting the hedge top or shaping shrubs, and can be rotated through 180 degrees to allow for maximum versatility when cutting the sides of hedges. The angled head also means you can trim growth at ground level.

 

 

The Gardena THS 400 weighs 4.3kg and is powered by a relatively small 350W motor (more powerful electric hedge trimmers will use 500W-750W motors), ample for the majority of general hedge trimming. If you’re looking to deal with woody, thicker stemmed material, you’ll find a petrol powered machine far more suitable. The cutter blade is double sided and measures 40cm. If you can envisage the 12 metre power cord presenting a problem, the Gardena THS 42 is a battery powered cordless version of the THS 400. Overall, these Gardena models are cleverly designed hedge trimmers perfect for the home user.

The Gardena THS400 is available to buy at the following online stores.

Stihl Electric long reach hedge trimmers

German machinery manufacturer Stihl make some of the finest garden and forestry machinery available, and 2008 sees the introduction of an electric long reach hedge trimmer range to compliment the Viking (also part of Stihl) electric long reach hedge trimmer range.

Stihl HLE 71 & HLE 71K long reach hedge cutters.

The Stihl long reach electric hedge cutters are fixed length shaft machines offering a powerful 600W motor for increased performance and a 50 cm cutting blade. Two models are offered, the only difference being the overall length. The Stihl HLE 71 weighs 5.9kg and measures 2.54 metres (8.3ft) whilst the HLE 71K weighs 5.6kg and is slightly shorter at 2.11 metres (6.9ft).

The cutting heads fold flat against the shaft for easy storage and can be adjusted through 135 degrees for trimming hedge tops, sides and ground cover. Both hedge cutters incorporate a lightweight harness which attaches to a loop on the shaft – not essential for general use but it can help to reduce fatigue when cutting larger hedges.

 

Although the Stihl HLE 71 and 71K machines cost a little more than most other electric long reach hedge cutters, you are getting a lot of machine for your money from one of the best manufacturers around. These are the ideal long reach hedge cutters for owners of medium sized gardens. Also worth consideration are the Viking range of long reach hedge cutters.

Petrol long reach hedge cutters.

Petrol powered long reach hedge cutters are normally fixed length shaft machines rather than telescopic and are available in lengths ranging from 2-2.5 metres. Although petrol powered machines are noisier and heavier than electric, you have complete freedom of movement and a lot more power at your disposal when it comes to dealing with thicker stemmed hedges.

Multi tool petrol hedge cutters

If you have a number of different tasks requiring different tools such as a strimmer, brush cutter, edger, hedge cutter, it makes sense to buy a multi tool that will accept various attachment instead of spending on separate machines. One engine for multiple tasks.

Two machines that offer hedge cutting and strimming capabilities are the MTD Lawnflite hedge trimmer/ brush cutter combi machine with adjustable cutting head, and the EFCO combi machine, again with an adjustable hedge cutting head. Both machines are available for under £300.

ECHO 2400

For even more versatility, the 23 cc engined ECHO Multi Tool 2400 offers a variety of attachments such as a chainsaw pruning head, cultivator, hedge trimmer, blower and lawn edger.

 

Flymo XLT 3000

Available from Garden Centre is the Flymo XLT 3000 petrol powered combi machine that offers a choice of 6 attachments including a hedge trimmer, cultivator and chainsaw pruner.

Although more well known for their lawnmowers, Flymo is actually owned by machinery giant Husqvarna, a Swedish company with as much expertise as anyone else when it comes to garden machinery.

Machinery & Mowers

Petrol & Electric Hedge Cutters

Hedges provide a perfect alternative to a fence as a garden boundary. They also create an environmentally beneficial habitat for wildlife and provide structure, colour and texture in the garden. Just like fences, hedges require regular maintenance to stay looking smart.

Hedge maintenance consists of cutting back growth. How much growth you cut back depends on the age of the hedge, the species of the hedging, and the desired result required.

Choosing tools for hedge cutting.

There are two basic options available to you when it comes to cutting your hedge – hand tools and power tools. Hand tools such as shears and secateurs are fine for smaller hedges consisting of thinner stems and for trimming individual shrubs and bushes. When it comes to choosing any manual cutting tool, get the best you can afford. There is a huge difference in quality between the cheapest and the mid to higher priced equipment.

Powered Hedge cutters

Powered hedge cutters are far more suitable for general hedge cutting and come in two flavours – petrol powered and electric.

Electric hedge cutters.

Electric hedge cutters are available in various sizes and power ratings from around 300 watts up to 750 watts. The main advantages of electric hedge cutters (apart from being fairly cheap) are the quiet operation and ease of use – you plug in and away you go. They also tend to be lighter than petrol powered hedge cutters.

The disadvantages are the lack of power compared to petrol machines and the danger of cutting through the power cord. Bear in mind the power cord will also limit your working range, if you have a long garden you will need an extension lead. Always use a circuit breaker with any electrically powered garden tool.

If you want the advantages of an electric hedge cutter without the hassle of a power cord, then a cordless battery powered hedge trimmer may be what you’re looking for.

Choosing an electric hedge cutter

If you want high quality, the Viking range of electric hedge cutters are worthy of serious consideration. Viking are part of German machinery manufacturers Stihl who make some of the best garden and forestry equipment available.

Bosch manufacture a decent and varied range of electric hedge cutters including smaller lightweight electric shears and larger more powerful hedge cutters. Unlike a lot of electric machines, Bosch hedge cutters are ergonomically well designed.

Alko also make some decent budget priced models for the gardener looking for a cheap, good value tool.

Long reach electric hedge trimmers

When it comes to hedge cutting, a bit of extra reach can make a difficult job a whole lot easier and safer. Long reach hedge cutters of the past were typically heavy petrol machines reserved for professionals. However, there are now some decent products on the market catering for the home user and the Gardena electric long reach hedge trimmer offers a lot for the price. See our article on long reach hedge cutters for more options.

Petrol powered hedge cutters.

For convenience and power, petrol powered hedge cutters reign supreme and are recommended for all larger hedge cutting jobs.

With a petrol hedge cutter, you have total freedom over your movements due to the lack of a power cord, and no power cord means no risk of cutting through it. You can also work in wet weather – not a wise option with an electric hedge trimmer.

The increase in power means petrol powered hedge cutters can cope with thicker, tougher growth easily. This becomes apparent when you leave a hedge for a year or so and find you have thick stems to deal with. Petrol hedge cutters are of a higher build quality generally and will last longer than their electric counterparts.

Buying a petrol hedge cutter

One of the most respected brands for all types of garden machinery is German manufacturer Stihl. Their petrol powered hedge cutters are amongst the best available for home users and professionals alike.

Another brand that’s quietly gaining respect is Japanese manufacturer Tanaka who offer powerful, good quality machines at excellent prices.

Although petrol equipment is generally more expensive than the equivalent electric tool, it is still possible to buy a petrol hedge cutter for under £150.

Long reach petrol hedge cutters

For tough growth up high, it makes sense to get a petrol powered long reach hedge cutter with an angled cutter head. Many of these machines can be fitted with different accessory heads such as strimmers, chainsaws and tillers.

Although not the cheapest, the Stihl range of long reach hedge cutters is one of the most popular amongst regular users and are available with a choice of engine sizes.

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