Garden power tools

Garden power tools seem to be taking up increasingly larger areas of the shelf space in DIY stores, and I’m not including lawnmowers here, which is a subject for another day. Now, we all love our gadgets, but I do wonder with this every growing array of motorised plastic, exactly what is a necessity, and what is literally going to gather dust in your shed. The following guide, by no means covers everything, but picks up on the main players in the garden power tool field.

Shredders

Bosch garden shredder

Bosch – make the king of garden shredders.

Shredders haven’t really been around that long, but they are basically the best way of getting rid of all the garden waste that is larger than grass clippings or weeds. Woody offcuts and branches from shrubs are easily devoured and spat out by these things.

The capacity of what a shredder will shred is of course dependent on the size and capability of the model you buy, but for most gardens you really don’t need anything too heavyweight. Once you’ve chopped up the waste, it can often be used for mulch or if it goes straight on the compost heap, because it has been chopped up, it will clearly compost down much more quickly.

Essential for you? No, but if you have a garden with a lot of shrubs, small trees, hedge and bush areas, definitely consider it.

For me the best around are made by Bosch, and the model I would choose is the Bosch AXT Rapid 2200 Blade shredder.

Pressure washers

Karcher pressure washers

Karcher – for me, the best range of pressure washers.

Pressure washers are great tools for cleaning down decking areas and patios, paths, and basically any hard landscaped area in your garden. They’re also an essential piece of kit when re-painting the outside masonry on your home – it really is the only effective way of washing down wall surfaces.

My main reservation with pressure washer ownership is that if you don’t also use it to clean your car, it will spend an awful lot of time doing nothing. The other issue is, don’t ever go for anything too lightweight in terms of power, as there is nothing more depressing than thinking you’ve got a bargain, and then finding out your new “pressure washer” is in fact less powerful than your son’s latest water pistol.

For me the only make to buy in this area is Karcher. Great range that covers everyone’s needs.

Hedge trimmers

Hedge trimmers clearly trim your hedges and bushes down much more quickly than using shears. I guess the question is at what stage, or really, at what length of hedge, does an electric or petrol powered hedge trimmer become a must. I have some fairly clear views on this one, to such an extent that I’ve written a full blown guide on them which you can see here – ‘Buying a hedge trimmer’.

Leaf vacuums and blowers

Leaf blowers

Flymo are best for price, but go for other makes of petrol powered options for greater portability.

These tools allow you to either blow leaves around to another area, or vacuum them up and put them on your compost heap. I must admit, I used to be strongly in the camp that saw all these machines as completely pointless, but having polled a few friends and acquaintances about them, they do seem pretty popular.

I think my mind was fairly entrenched in thinking you just use them once a year in the autumn, to pick up the leaves, but it seems it is best to think about them more a “powered brush” that is great for clearing paths and patios at any time of year. Now, I still haven’t decided to get one, but if I did, the Flymo range are the ones to go for if you’re on a budget. The only problem is that they are all (I think) electric, and therefore have a cable. For greater portability, I’d be tempted by the petrol powered options available in such places as Screwfix.

Power tool safety

With any sort of tool you need to take appropriate safety precautions, but this need certainly becomes more acute with power tools. Always follow manufacturers’ recommendations and guidelines, and make sure you’ve read and understood the whole instruction manual before you set about using your new garden power tool. Also, for reasons of safety alone, I’ve not included chainsaws in my list above, not because I don’t think people should be allowed to use them, but because I think there should be some sort of mandatory course you need to do before purchase, as well as compulsory ownership of the correct safety clothing and equipment. Until then, I certainly wouldn’t make any recommendations on purchase.

Final thoughts

As with all power tool purchases, you do need to try and take an objective view about how much use the tool will get and whether the price justifies the investment. All these tools have come down considerably in price over the last few years, but as always, I would advise that quality is normally reflected in the price, and although there are always bargains about, using an underpowered power tool is much more infuriating than doing the job by hand.

As mentioned at the beginning, lawn mowers will become the subject of another guide, but for the garden power tools discussed above, first, decide if you really need “it”, second, make sure that the model is powerful enough for your needs, and third, do a price check and shop around, as with all these tools, prices vary considerably from shop to shop.

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