How to Use A Hedge Trimmer

Before You Begin – Safety First

Before you learn how to use a hedge trimmer, it is important to remember that safety always comes first. That is why you need to have a clean and clear space to work, which will also help you avoid cutting anything other than the hedges. 

Once you've learned how to use a hedge trimmer, check out our reviews of the best corded electric hedge trimmer, the ​best gas hedge trimmer and the best cordless hedge trimmer.

Next, you should put on some protective equipment before you start the hedge trimmer. Here are some of the things you need:

  • Hearing protection (if you’re using a gas powered hedge trimmer)
  • Work gloves
  • Long sleeves
  • Long pants
  • Closed toe shoes or boots
  • Safety glasses

Remember to read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them.

Always inspect the trimmer (including extension cord if you're using a corded electric hedge trimmer) before you turn it on. Switch off and unplug the trimmer (or remove the battery) before cleaning or maintenance.

Never let a child operate a hedge trimmer, and make sure there are no children or animals within 50 feet when you're using it.

To know more about how a hedge trimmer works, read this article.

Connect to a Power Source

(or fill up the gas)

You will be use one of the three types of hedge trimmers:

  • Gasoline (powered by a gasoline engine)
  • Corded electric (powered by an electric motor, needs to be plugged into a power socket)
  • Cordless electric (powered by an electric motor, has a battery so doesn't need plugged in while in use)

The different types of trimmers are quite similar to use, except for the obvious differences caused by the motor type. Corded electric trimmers are the lightest, gasoline trimmers are the heaviest, with cordless electric string trimmers somewhere in the middle. Read more about gasoline vs electric hedge trimmers here.

For electric hedge trimmers with cords, make sure you have an extension which can be connected to a power outlet. The extension has to be long enough to allow you room to move around.​

You should always use a GFCI power outlet for any corded electrical equipment being used outdoors, including hedge trimmers.

If you’re using a cordless electric hedge trimmer, make sure that the battery is charged, and (if you have one) have another battery on standby, so you can use it if the current one runs out of charge.

If you’re using a gas powered hedge trimmer, fill it up with gasoline and make sure it is ready to go. Turn on your hedge trimmer and let’s get things started.

Trim the Front and Sides of Your Hedge

First things first

When you’re learning how to use a hedge trimmer, your first order of business should be to trim the front and sides of your hedge.

If your trimmer has multiple speeds, start of on the lowest setting, until you get used to how your trimmer feels. Using both hands, move the trimmer in even strokes.

Getting the front of the hedge will make it easier for you to sort out the rest of the hedges. It provides you a good idea of how the whole thing should shape up. Make sure you thoroughly define the shape of the hedge as you work on the front and the sides.

This video demonstrates how to trim a hedge:

Trim the Top of Your Hedge

Once you've done the front and sides of the hedge, you can move to the top

The aim is to pick a spot on the top, and trim everything above this spot, leaving the whole top of the hedge parallel to the ground. If you want a rounded top, simply start trimming with a downward stroke when you get a few inches from the side. The rounded top can look good, but takes a lot more practice to get a good result.

If you really want to be precise, you can use string to guide you for the straight sections (attached to the wall or fence at each end), or even cardboard templates for curved parts.

This section of the hedge trimming video shows how to trim the top:

Trim Inside Your Hedge

Keeping the hedge healthy

As you trim the hedges, you will also see a old growth inside the hedges. These parts will be older and less green than the rest of the hedge. Make sure you carefully use your hedge trimmer (or manual pruners) to cut those parts out. Clearing out the old growth is important to ensure your hedge can maintain a proper shape after the trim.

Clear Away Your Clippings

Last but not least

While you are trimming hedges, make sure you clear away the clippings as you go along. Clearing them away periodically will make space for you to move around without any problem and prevent you from tripping and falling over.

You can use a rake, brush or leaf blower to clear up, depending on how large an area you've covered.

Make sure that throughout the time you’re using a hedge trimmer, you are attentive. Once you are done trimming the hedges, make it a point to properly oil the hedge trimmer blades and clean it up before putting it into storage.

Further Reading

Hedge trimming guides

There's a comprehensive guide to trimming hedges and bushes at Greenpal.

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