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Time to ditch the garden power tools?

Hedge trimmer

Some gardening jobs cannot be avoided. Hedges have to be cut, grass has to be mown and leaves have to be raked up. Do power tools make the job easier, or are they just expensive, tiring and noisy?

My favourite job in the garden is cutting the box hedge at the back of my house. It’s not a huge job, but with a cordless hedge trimmer it’s a breeze. It’s not too noisy either. I really dislike having my summer evenings ruined by noisy power tools – either my own or my neighbours.

So my lawn never gets properly edged because I don’t like my grass trimmer. It’s a faff to use as the cord is forever knocking over my border plants and it’s really noisy. The lawn shears come out every time, even though I don’t do a particularly neat job with them.

And leaves on the lawn get mown up or raked up – no leaf blower vac for me! My neighbour loves to use his blower-vac; not only is the noise irritating, but I’m convinced the job would be quicker and easier using a rake.

Cordless tools are a big improvement

Which? members are increasingly opting for cordless, battery-powered garden tools and I’m a convert too. After slicing through the cord of my hedge trimmer, I invested in a cordless, battery-powered hedge trimmer. It was a bit more expensive than a corded machine, but it is so much nicer to use. In fact, it got me to seriously think about buying a battery-powered lawn mower. Unfortunately, they’re outside of my price range at the moment!

Would I get a cordless grass trimmer? No. It will still be quite noisy and it’s a clumsy solution to edging. Cutting the tall grass that the lawn mower misses is a fiddly task at best, but at least with shears I can get some precision and peace at the same time.

Better to ditch power tools completely?

Some people advocate only using hand tools in the garden. They’re fans of the quiet and the exercise. But using hedging shears is too labour intensive and causes a lot of blisters for me.

My electric lawnmower is a must as well, but leaf blowers and grass trimmers? I’m definitely a fan of leaving these in the shed and going ‘old school’ with a rake and lawn shears. And I can certainly live without a garden shredder, even though it means a lot of effort to dispose of branches and other garden debris.

So what garden power tools could you do without? Is it the noise or something else that gets your goat? Are there some jobs that you couldn’t tackle without a power tool?


My Black & Decker Strimmer has remained unused for many years because lawn shears do a better job and do not make a noise like a demented bee.

I used to have an ancient Webb electric cylinder mower, a gift from an elderly neighbour. That was quiet and civilised, but when I cut through the cable by accident in the 80s I made an impulse purchase of a petrol rotary mower. Having a Briggs & Stratton engine, it is unbelievably noisy, and I am careful about when I use it so as not to annoy the neighbours. I don’t use it early in the morning or after 7pm.

Compared with the mower, the hedge trimmer is fairly quiet, and I do not have much hedge. I once cut through the cable and to prevent this happening again, I put a metre of hose on the cable. That is prevented from slipping along the cable with a large cable tie. The diameter of the hose is sufficient to prevent the cable getting between the cutting blades.

Cordless power tools look very attractive, but consider the cost of replacing batteries, if they are still available.

I’m afraid it’s a case of using the easiest and most suitable tools for the job when you have a large garden with a lot of trees and bushes.

When we moved from a small garden the only power tool we had was an electric lawnmower. In a quest to make garden jobs easier we now have hand, battery, electric & petrol tools, anything to ease the aches and pains.

But saying that, Laurel is done by hand as taking a hedge trimmer to it leaves it looking a right mess.

Some trimmings get composted but a shredder is a must so the rest can be recycled.

My biggest garden nuisance gripe is bonfires.

They are much worse than garden machinery noise if you live in an area where people seem to burn anything, at any time, just after it has rained, on hot still evenings…….

Smart idea wavechange to prevent severing the power cable. I do have most power tools for the garden but then different gardens need different approaches. Larger gardens which may have large lawns are really not in the same league when talking of battery mowers compared to cabled or power mowers.

At this house we inherited a Honda 36″ powered mower and given its very large cutting area I can do the front lawn [15m*10m] in under ten minutes bagging the grass as I go. The Honda seems to be over 20 years old and have the muscle to cut long damp grass which we tend to have in the spring.

Most battery mowers appear to be 18″ -14″ or less and some I see claim to be for smaller lawns. Full battery charging and the cost of replacement batteries also needs to factored in.

Alfa – Banning of bonfires and also of fireworks to specified times of the year would be an advance for society. Exceptions for farmers and people over x hundred metres from neighbours would be logical.

Bonfires is partly asbout being considerate to your neighbours and making sure they will not be affected. Legislation is of limited help – the govt says:

Quick answer Garden bonfires: the rules
There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause.
Burning domestic waste
You can’t get rid of household waste if it will cause pollution or harm people’s health. This includes burning it.
Danger to traffic by smoke
You could be fined if you light a fire and you allow the smoke to drift across the road and become a danger to traffic.
Complain about a neighbour’s bonfire
Your council can issue an ‘abatement notice’ if a neighbour’s bonfire is causing a nuisance. A bonfire must happen frequently to be considered a nuisance.
Your neighbour can be fined up to £5,000 if they don’t stick to the notice.

For fireworks, they say:
You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. The exceptions are:
Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight
New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am

Off topic, but worth knowing?

I don’t normally believe in perpetuating myths, but I will make an exception for the common belief that it is illegal to have a bonfire in a smokeless zone. I wish it was illegal.

My neighbours don’t have bonfires and there is no traffic noise, since I live in a cup-de-sac. Peace and quiet until someone starts up their mower.

We have got rid of most of our powered garden tools. The annoying noise was the main reason but I also realised they were not saving much time overall or doing a better job. I was not impressed with the finish when using a strimmer so I do all the lawn edges and bits around shrubs, trees and planters by hand with good lawn shears [not easy to find in the shops and DIY stores which mainly sell hedging shears or ‘mulit-purpose’ ones that don’t do anything well enough]. I enjoy doing the edges by hand as a precursor to mowing – it gets me closer to the garden and I can deal with things in the flower beds that might otherwise be left undone or go unnoticed; it’s also easier to avoid decapitating plants and scouring the bark off trees. I also enjoy hedge trimming by hand. All tree work I have done myself up to a reachable height because I just don’t feel safe with a chainsaw and think only trained and certificated people with full protective euipment should be allowed to use them. The shredder went after a few seasons as the amount of material to be dealt with diminished. I think the blower/vac was only deployed for one Autumn leaf sweep before it was declared redundant; I really disliked the noise it made and the weight of it when the bag was getting full. Raking up the leaves on a decent Autumnal day is a satisfying, invigorating, and quiet contemplative occupation. That just leaves the electric lawnmower in regular use and the occasional use of the power washer. I have noticed that some push-mowers make a more unpleasant noise than my Bosch mower. I also use a hand drill or brace-&-bit as often as I use a power drill for woodwork as I prefer having more control over the work – my B&D electric drill is now 45 years old so I only give it gentle duties. We stopped having bonfires after a neighbour called out the fire brigade – the wind had picked up and the incinerator was going like a mill chimney with dirty waste in the furnace; there was only a wisp of smoke by the time the fire engine arrived.

Gerard Phelan says:
11 August 2013

I find my shredder to be the miracle tool that allows my compost heaps to work. Taking the time to bag up waste for the Council to collect and then replacing the material lost by driving to Garden centres to buy compost, feels wrong – ecologically, practically and financially. Thus the only material I send out in the Garden waste bags is that which cannot be composted – moss, bindweed and infected material, like red-current branches with coral spot or rose leaves with black spot fungus.

Of course I have to get rid of larger woody material by burning it, but I limit myself to wood only fires in an incinerator, so there is no smoke, just a very hot flame only fire – just what we need most summers! Ah well – that is why this year I have exceptionally put out two garden waste bags with woody waste.

Teresa W says:
12 August 2013

I have a Bosch battery powered strimmer for my allotment – beds cut out of grassland, leaving grass paths. There’s no electricity anyway, I thought petrol machinery would be expensive, need servicing and be smelly and dangerous carried in the back of the car – leaving expensive machinery in an allotment shed secured with a padlock is plain silly. That was 5 years ago, still using the same battery, quick wizz round makes the whole thing look tidy quickley. Doing it by hand would be hard and time consuming

Joyce says:
20 August 2013

I do agree that cordless power tools in the garden have a huge edge – I use a cordless strimmer/edger to do the lawn edges and the bits the mower (petrol) can’t get to. The cutting head swivels through 90 degrees so it cuts horizontally or vertically. Yes, it makes a bit of a noise, but I can do the missed bits and the edges of both lawns in less than ten minutes. I have a rule of never using noisy tools before 11 a.m. at the weekend, and not if I can hear my neighbours are entertaining (or snoring!).

I would like to see a comparison of none electric purely hand held hedge shears, there are quite a variety and trying to decide what is best for me is difficult, until you use them. I think the wolf wooden handle type might be best and these also have a gap so when citing vertically you don’t scrape your knuckles on the hedge.

I have a small garden and allotment. In the first year I dug the ground with a spade and used a cordless strimmer to clear weeds and brambles. Last year I bought a Mantis rotavator to help with the preparation of ground which makes an enormous difference in term so time and effort. This year I had a lot of couch grass to cut back. The cordless strimmer really wasn’t up to the job so I have bought a petrol one which makes life so much easier. There is quite a lot of “kick back” when cutting couch grass which is quite tiring. My decision to get a strimmer with a harness was a good one. If I was to buy again I would definitely get a machine with handle bars so I could better control the machine when cutting. One handed, I get tired quite quickly and find the machine can be difficult to control.

One further tip, the small engines on these machines can be temperamental and I had problems with an insufficient flow of fuel and need to have the carburettor replace after cleaning failed to improve matters. I have change my fuel to Aspen Alkaline fuel which has a 5 yr shelf life . It is incredibly expensive but it does seem to reduce problems from fuel degradation with normal unleaded.

Do I think power tools have a place. Definitely.

I had not heard of Aspen Alkylate fuel as a way of avoiding problems with the tiny carburettors in petrol strimmers etc. Another solution is to simply run the engines dry before storage, so that no fuel is left in the carburettor.

Aspen do pure petrol and also pre-mix. Husqvarna I believe do a pre-mixed for 2 stroke. At around £5 per litre they are expensive but then not having to throw fuel away at season end is probably a good reason, and actually they are much cleaner than normal petrol.

Since I last wrote in 2013 on this thread having a much larger garden I have a range of power equipment so a strimmer, blower, chainsaw,and a two-wheeled tractor. The 12hp tractor has attachments like a a powered plough, flail, and a chipper/shredder which are very useful for large gardens.

Very much horses for courses. Small gardens reward attention to detail and the hand tool quietness. Larger gardens and the matter of time and irrigation take on more importance.

Hand tools are of course still important and the ARS range of tolls has proved that quality tools are well worth the investment. The hand saws are incredibly sharp and a hedge of of 15ft wide and a nasty mix of blackthorn trees was dealt with quite easily and silently.

No noise around this area on Sundays : )