Tractor-mounted flail cutting.
The preferable method of hedge maintenance is by hand tools, however, where this is not practical hedgerow maintenance can also be carried out by machine, this is called flail trimming. If this machine is used with care, it is usually the best way of trimming hedgerows as it is cost effective and does a highly efficient pruning job. Hedgerows along roads and farm access tracks may have to be trimmed annually to avoid obstruction. Young or newly planted hedgerows may also need a light annual trim for about ten years in order to train them into a good shape, however, if flail trimming is carried out unsympathetically it can be detrimental to the hedge. The disadvantage of this type of hedge management is that it can take a number of years before the hedgerow will flower again and bear fruit for both wild life and people (www.rspb.org.uk). The tractor mounted flail is a very powerful machine that is capable of grinding through quiet thick stems but it is most effective on stems up to 25mm thick. Although larger stems can be within the capacity of the machine it often leads to ugly scarring and splitting that can damage the hedge, so its lifespan and growth is greatly reduced. Therefore the use of a Tractor-mounted flail cutter should only be used on the soft growth of thorny species, and never on heavy woody growth as the resulting ends are unsightly and invite disease (www.heritagecouncil.ie). The machine must be kept in good condition, sharp blades and regularly maintained equipment is extremely important and the proper training of the operator cannot be over stated.