Woody plants can be quite tough, so sharp blades are essential. Remember that you are cutting into a living organism, so, like a surgeon, you must make clean cuts to avoid damaging the plant. I his also ensures that pruning wounds heal more quickly and efficiently.
Good-quality cutting tools will make short work of tough jobs, so choosing the right equipment is vital.

Cutting equipment

The first essential piece of equipment is a pair of pruning shears. It is worth having one really good pair that you take special care of and a couple of pairs of lesser rank for snipping the odd shoot here and there. Shears come with various kinds of blades and different closing mechanisms.

I here arc many opinions on what type you should buy, but much depends on the kinds of jobs you are doing and what you personally prefer. II you have only one pair, choose one with a bypass action. In addition, you will probably need a pair of garden shears for clipping hedges. Balance is important, as is the right weight, or you will find that your arms and shoulders tire quickly on any large-scale job (for which an electric hedge trimmer might be the better option).

Garden knife

A good garden knife is essential for a wide variety of small jobs that you will encounter in the course of maintaining your garden. Tasks such as taking cuttings, picking Mowers and vegetables to bring indoors, and pruning can all be carried out with a sharp general-purpose folding knife. Keep the blade oiled, and sharpen it at regular intervals: a blunt-edged blade that does not cut properly is likely to damage the plant and will encourage disease to penetrate through the ragged wound.

Garden shears

Garden shears are used for trimming hedges and for cutting down dying perennials in fall. You can also use them for smaller jobs, such as maintaining a small area of lawn. To achieve a good, even cut, keep the blades parallel to the line of the lawn or hedge, following a previously laid line of twine or string, it need be.

Pruning shears

Pruning shears are used for more heavy-duty tasks such as cutting back branches. Purchase a good pair with really sharp blades to make the job that little bit easier.

Lawn edgers

If you have a down lawn, you will need lawn-edging tools with long handles to keep the edges tidy. You will need a hall-moon blade. which cuts through the turf to mike ,1 perpendicular edge, and lawn shears, which are much like ordinary shears but are mounted vertically onto long handles so that ymi can clip away long grass.

Pruning saw

A small pruning saw is very useful. I he best ones fold up, protecting ymi from the serrated teeth, which are exceptionally sharp. Despite being small, they will make short work of a stoutish branch and are especially valuable for minor pruning jobs or in awkward places.

USING A SAW

Saws are often used for cutting larger branches when pruning trees and shrubs. Because the wood of live plants often wet and relatively soft, these saws usually have large teeth to prevent them from clogging. For tasks such as removing branches even with a suitable saw, it is safer to follow a set procedure rather than risk injuries to the plant or to the person doing the cutting.

Make an undercut about in. away from the trunk, cutting up to one fourth of the branch’s diameter.

2 Make a cut 2-3 in. farther along on the top of the branch, allowing it to split to the first cut without injury to the trunk.

3 The next stage is to remove the remaining stub oj the branch close to the trunk of the tree as carefully as possible

4 Cut back to the branch collar, the swollen area where a branch joins the main trunk. Leaving the collar intact promotes rapid healing.

POWER TOOL SAFETY CHECKLIST

Make sure that you are wearing appropriate clothing: goggles for power cutting equipment; ear protection for noisy equipment such as chainsaws; heavy-duty boots; gloves to protect your hands.

* Never operate electrical equipment in wet weather or on wet plants.
* IVfafee sure all electrical equipment is equipped with a circuit breaker.
* Curry any surplus cord over your shoulder, so thai you do not cut through it accidentally.
* Maintain electrical equipment properly and inspect it frequently.
* Clean it regularly, according lo the manufacturer’s instructions. m Should the equipment fail to work, turn it off at the main power supply unci unplug it before carrying out an inspection.
* Make sure all pets and children are safely indoors he/ore using any garden power tools.

Power tools

Electrically operated tools provide the gardener with the opportunity to cut down on much of the hard slog of garden maintenance. However, they need to be handled with great care and safety regulations must be observed to the letter, since the combination of water (ever present in the garden) and electricity is always dangerous. Heavy-duty power tools can be rented for short or longer periods, and unless you are likely to use them very frequently you are probably better off renting, thereby avoiding the need for maintenance. Make sure you rent the equipment from a reputable company and that they explain exactly how to use it and that they supply the appropriate safety equipment.

Hedge trimmers

The powered hedge trimmer you choose will be determined by the height and length of the hedge and its distance from the house. For front yards, an electrically operated hedge trimmer with a blade approximately 16 in. long is probably the best choice. Those with longer blades are uncomfortably heavy I or general amateur use. For large gardens, where it would be difficult to reach the power supply, a gas-powered trimmer would be best. Gloves and goggles are always recommended for your safety.

Lawn mowers

Your choice of lawn mower will depend on the size of the lawn and whether or not you want it to have a traditional striped appearance. II you want a finish without loose grass, you will need to buy a lawn mower with a grass-collecting bag. For small lawns, a manual lawn mower is perfectly adequate, but for larger ones a powered lawn mower will save a great deal of effort. There are both push, or “walk behind,” power lawn mowers, with either a cylinder action or a rotary action, and “ride on” or tractor-hauled gas-powered mowers for much larger areas. Cylinder-action lawn mowers usual K have a back roller that produces the “striped” effect of the traditional lawn. Rotary and hover mowers cut the grass with a scythe-like action and are particularly good for rough or long grass.

Great care must be taken when using an electric mower, and ,i circuit-breaking device must be used to pre cut accidents in the event that the cord is cut. Never use an electrical mower (or am other electrical appliance) in the garden in wet weather.

Trimmers and brushwood cutters

These are ideal for cutting grass and light brush in awkward areas (on slopes, for example). J he trimmers operate with a whirling, flexible nylon cutting line and are useful for light grass cutting. The brushwood cutters have a rotating head with a metal blade and are useful for cutting heavier plant material. Both can be gas-powered or electrically operated. Some trimmers are hatter)’ operated, allowing greater freedom of movement. However, the battery will need to be recharged frequently.

Rotary cultivators

These make light work of digging over a large area and are ideal for bringing a new piece of ground into use. However, the rotary cultivator can also cut tip perennial weeds and scatter them widely, thus propagating them. Ideally, fork out any deep-rooted perennial weeds before you start.

USING A ROTARY CULTIVATOR

There are many different kinds of powered cultivator available, and they all operate on the same basic principle:

rotating steel blades turn over the soil. Most machines are equipped with a depth adjuster, which works by limiting the depth to which the rotating blades can penetrate into the soil. The traveling speed of the machine and the rotating speed of the blades will determine how finely cultivated the soil will become.
1 Start by setting (lie depth gouge. (| the ground is hard, cultivate to a shallow depth before repeating, cultivating to the desired depth.
2 if a finely tilled bed is required, set the forward speed on slow and the rotor speed on first. Allow the machine to travel at an even pace.
3 Allow the rear flap to trail out over the freshly cultivated soil just behind the rotor to help level the soil and leave an even surface.
4 Switch off the motor and disconnect the power cord. Remove any soil with a scraper, such as a piece of wood. Clean the blades with u hose.

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