Remove dead branches
Dead tree limbs can be a menace during a strong storm and pose the risk of damage to your home, car, and property. To be safe, remove the branches well ahead of nasty weather. If your trees are small and the branches are no more than four-inches in diameter, consider using an electric lopper, which some homeowners find less scary than a chain saw. In our chain saw tests, the Black & Decker LP 1000, $75, was faster than the $120 Worx WG307 and, at just seven pounds, weighs about two pounds less. With both models it’s safe to cut above shoulder level—a risky move with chain saws.
Recommended chain saws. To get top cutting speed, consider a gasoline-powered chain saw. The Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230, a CR Best Buy, had excellent cutting speed and was easy to start and handle. We also recommend the Husqvarna 435 and the Echo CS-352-16, both $270. Our top light-duty gas model and top corded-electric model both scored a 68 out of 100 and are both CR Best Buys. The gas-powered Craftsman 34190, $150, and the electric Worx WG303.1, $100, were both capable cutters. But the two battery-powered saws in our chain saw tests were fair to poor at cutting speed.
Five essential garden tools
Of course, you don’t need a power tool for all your yardwork. Equipping your garden shed with the following tools will help you with pruning and other cleanup jobs.
Gloves. Look for durable yet pliable materials, such as nylon or leather, that protect hands while still letting you maneuver. Silicon dots or fingertips enhance grip. Water-resistance is a plus.
Loppers. Look for sharp blades and longer handles, which provide more leverage when cutting branches that are too thick for a pruner.
Pruner. Look for sharp bypass blades with a scissor-like action for clean cuts when removing small or thin branches from shrubs and trees.
Shovel. Look for a round head with a pointed tip, which is good for scooping earth and cutting through thick roots.
Trowel. Look for a sharp blade for digging, weeding, and dividing plants, and a fully welded, not spot-welded, joint between the handle and blade. Stainless steel resists rust.
—Mary H.J. Farrell