Power tools for the garden
First thoughts might suggest that the lawn mower is the only power tool required for the garden, but these days there are a number of other power tools to help the gardener.
If you have any length of hedge, a hedge trimmer will make light work of keeping it neat and tidy. They are available either electric or petrol driven, the petrol ones are heavier but give extra flexibility as there's no mains lead to limit where you work. On the other hand, electric hedge trimmers are lighter, quieter and easier to use.
The size of tooth gap on the blade will determine the size of the branches which can be cut, for example if the tooth gap is 12mm, the blade will cut branches up to 12mm diameter - it is simple, if a branch cannot get into the tooth gap, it cannot be cut. So have a look at your hedge before buying a new hedge trimmer and see the size of branches you are going to be dealing with.
Different models of hedge trimmers have different lengths of blade, this won't affect the size of branch which can be cut, just the amount which can be cut at one time. While longer blades will cut more it one go, they can be less easy to control and require a more powerful motor than a shorter blade with the same tooth gap.
A hedge trimmer is a two handed tool, there should be a handle for both of your hands.
For smaller hedges, it is probably worth using a powered hedge trimmer, a pair of garden shears will be just as quick and should give a better finish.
These are both powerful and hazardous tools which are ideal for heavy pruning tasks and tree felling. They should only be used by competent, trained (check the local college for courses) persons wearing the correct safety clothes. Always keep any audience well away from it.
Chainsaws can be either electric and two-stroke petrol versions. Electric powered chainsaws are quieter, lighter but are less powerful than petrol ones. Maintenance is also simpler. If the electricity supply is a distance from what you want to cut, a petrol model would be the best option.
All modern chainsaws have two-handed switches, and as a safety precaution a short chain stopping time and a chain brake that operates if the saw kicks back.
Garden shredders will reduce a lot of garden waste, (clippings, twigs, and small branches) to small pieces which can be used for mulching or composting. Some shredders for the ordinary gardeners can deal with branches up to 32mm thick.
A garden vacuum will make light work of sucking up leaves in the garden ready into a collection box ready for the compose heap. The higher the wattage of the model, the greater the suction power.
Most vacuums also include a blow setting, and some also include a internal shredder.
The blow enables leaves to be blown into piles, this is ideal in larger gardens where the vacuum collection bag would soon become full.
The internal shredder chops up the leaves before they go into the collection bag. The mixture collected in the bag can be put on the compost heap or spread on the soil to return nutrients to the ground.
Brush cutters are ideal for cutting down those brambles and wide parts of the garden,
They can be either electric or power driven. The cutter may consist of a cutting line or a solid cutting disc.
The more powerful brush cutters incorporate two handles to give added control to the tool.
For cleaning down paths, patios, walls, driveways, house guttering, barbecues, garden furniture etc, an electric pressure washer will take away the effort required.
A water supply, (i.e. garden hose) is connected to the washer and as the water flows into it, the pressure of the water is increased by a pump to produce a high pressure spray of water. Electric powered and petrol driven pressure washers are available.
These pressure washers come with a rated output pressure ranging from 100 to 150 BAR, and have a water flow rate between 360 and 530 litres/hour. BAR is a measure of pressure, so the higher the BAR number, the higher the output pressure and the more powerful the cleaning performance.
Control of the output spray is normally by means of a trigger of the output lance. Care needs to be taken when using high pressures as the water jet can be erosive, it can easily take out the cement between paving slabs.
A wide range of accessories are available for pressure washer, these include:
- Spray lance extensions - ideal for those areas which cannot be reached with the standard lance
- Rotary brushes - the output spray goes through a brush which rotates due to the water pressure
- Different nozzles for the lance - these offer different shaped water jets for different jobs.
- A tank to add something to the water being sprayed (i.e. cleaning agents etc)
Safety with power tools in the garden
- Always wear the appropriate clothing, including steel capped shoes, eye and ear protectors as appropriate
- Never use a power tool if you are not sure about how to operate it, always read the manual, make sure you know how to turn it off.
- Never attempt to adjust any machine while it is running
- Only store fuel for petrol driven equipment in sturdy purpose-built containers. Mark these containers should to show their contents (e.g. petrol, two-stroke) and store them out of the house, in a cool dry place
- When using any mains electrical equipment always use a Residual Current Device circuit breaker
- All electric power tools should be properly insulated and any extension cable should be orange so it will stand out when laid around the garden
- Check the full length of any electric cable (both on the tool and any extension cable) before and after using a tool. Do not use any cable which has signs of damage to the insulation or the connectors.
- When using a hand controlled electric tool, feed the cable over your shoulder, this should prevent you cutting through it.