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Can you make use of an electric hedge trimmer? Which kind?

Trimming thick growth can be one of summer's greatest gardening battles, especially if stems are tough. With hand-operated hedge shears, the job is time consuming and exhausting.

One way to ease the effort is with an electric trimmer. With the right model, cutting through even thick, woody stems is a breeze.

What kind of trimmer do you need? Models vary greatly in quality and price. To some extent, the model you choose depends on what you cut and how often. Inexpensive, low-powered trimmers with single-action blades (one blade is stationary) are adequate for trimming hedges and ground covers with succulent new growth no more than 1/4 inch thick. On bushy, tough growth, blades tend to get stuck in foliage and mash stems, making cuts unattractive and slower to heal.

These trimmers come in 13- to 22-inch lengths, weigh 4 1/2 to 5 3/4 pounds, and cost from $30 to $65. Their life span is typically two to six years. Look for them in discount hardware stores.

For large jobs or when you've waited so long that growth gets woody, you're better off with a sturdier, higher-powered model. Reciprocating blades (both blades move) smoothly cut stems up to 5/8 inch thick and handle even the most overgrown shrubs. Job time is shorter, since the strong motors allow a faster cutting pace. Most of these models have double switches to prevent accidental starting. Blades (some self-sharpening) are 16 to 30 inches long. Life span can be 25 years or more. These models weigh 7 to 91/2 pounds, so smaller gardeners may find them more difficult to use.

Expect to pay from $150 to $200. For sources, try hardware stores or tool rental shops. These two firms sell by mail (free catalogs): Clapper's, 1121 Washington St., West Newton, Mass. 02165; A.M. Leonard, Box 816, Piqua, Ohio 45356.

Safety tips; maintenance Use an outdoor extension cord and keep it away from the blades (you can drape it over a shoulder). Wear goggles and keep both hands on the handles during operation. Avoid making sweeping cuts near legs or feet. Before storing, clean debris off blades and wipe them with a light oil. Unless your model has self-sharpening blades, sharpen them periodically (if they're carbon steel) or buy replacement blades from the manufacturer.
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Date:Jul 1, 1990
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