In principal, I like to use manual garden tools wherever possible because a) they’re more environmentally friendly and b) I so need the exercise. But when it comes to trimming our 30-odd feet of hedge — which grows like a weed, requiring several summer/fall trims — we gave in last year and bought a cordless trimmer. Our first purchase was a house brand from a major retailer that turned out to be, well, pretty crappy. There was a problem with the switch, in that it would sometimes jam, making the tool suddenly stop in the middle of a cut. Cute. The replacement we got did the same thing, convincing us once and for all that cheap garden tools are no bargain. This summer, the gardening team at my house (my husband, 15-year-old son and myself) tried two trimmers, both of which we liked.
One was the Black & Decker 18-volt cordless hedge trimmer (on sale at Home Depot now for about $110, I notice.) It’s supposed to run for about 30 minutes, but we found it ran longer than that, getting us all the way through the hedge job on one charge. It gives a nice clean cut on larger branches (up to about ¾ of an inch thick) and did not shred smaller, finer branches. (For bigger branches, I still like my older, corded Black & Decker Alligator lopper.) At 22 inches, the blade is longer than that of the Ryobi we tested. Using both made me realize that blade length can be a somewhat personal choice, depending on the depth of what you are cutting, and what feels best in your hand. I may actually like a slightly longer blade, the result, perhaps, of having short arms? The recharge time on the battery for this model is long; between nine and 11 hours, according to the manual. Because I do deplore the way power tools add to outdoor noise level, I have to say that I think I like the sound this one makes slightly more than the Ryobi (although husband and son says that’s silly.)
Overall, I was really impressed with the Ryobi cordless 18-volt trimmer. It sells exclusively at Home Depot (regularly for $139, now on sale for $99) The company claims its 18-volt lithium battery will hold charge about four times longer than its Ni-cad counterpart, but I can’t actually vouch for that. I can say that the recharge time is fast – about an hour. It also gives a very clean cut on branches up to 3/8 of an inch and like, the Black and Decker, did not make a mess of thin new growth. We all found the Ryobi to be very nicely balanced and easy to manoeuvre. There’s also one stand-out feature to note. It’s got a wrap-around handle, so that you can turn the blade simply by tilting your steering hand. So simple, so clever - it makes shaping bushes and hedges quicker and easier. That was true for both myself and my strong-as-oxes guys.
In the end, I think my son said a mouthful when he suggested that picking the right trimmer is probably a bit like choosing the perfect hockey stick – it’s got to “fit”. So make sure you handle several before you buy.