Q: I don’t have a lot of experience with yard work, but I’m trying to save money by doing much of it myself. I’ve figured out lawn mowing, but how can I get the edges trimmed? I don’t want to buy an expensive edger. – Sarah in Mobile, Ala.
A: A string trimmer (also known as a weed whacker, or weed trimmer) doubles as a good edger, and is really affordable: You can purchase an electric trimmer for as little as $40. For a little more (about $100 on average) you can get a cordless electric trimmer, which eliminates the hassle of dragging around extension cords and the worries about accidentally striking one.
To use the trimmer on lawn edges, angle it slightly downward toward the edge you’re targeting, engage the motor by pressing the control trigger, and ease the whirring string toward the grass until just the tip of the string touches it. Move it along the edge of the grass, trimming it to the same height as the rest of the freshly mowed lawn.
A few safety notes here:
• Always wear long trousers and sturdy, close-toed shoes when doing any lawn work, particularly with power tools and mowers.
• Wear eye protection when using a string trimmer, and maybe gloves, because it’s painful and dismaying to be hit with debris when using this tool.
• Learn to angle the trimmer so that grass and dirt fly away from you. The trimmer guard helps, but doesn’t provide full protection.
• Tell bystanders to move away, or stop trimming when neighbors walk past, starting again when they are clear.
• If you’re using a corded electric trimmer, always be aware of where the cord is, so you don’t accidentally hit it.
• Avoid hitting concrete or brick when using the trimmer. The harder surface quickly destroys the trimming line, meaning you’ll have to replace it sooner.
• Be careful when trimming around shrubs and trees, as the whirring line can damage the bark.
Knowing how to maintain your string trimmer also can save money. Over time, the cutting string will run out – as it’s intended to do. Purchase replacement line as needed, make sure the trimmer is unplugged and remove the spool from the trimmer’s cutting head by turning the trimmer over, removing the fitted cap from the cutting head and lifting out the spool. Remove the remaining cutting line and discard. Thread the new line into the thread hole or guide notch, and wind it around the spool in the direction of the arrow printed on top of the spool. You can get more details online.
HOME TIP: To prevent “scalping” a lawn edge, trim facing outward, toward the pavement (without hitting it), rather than inward toward the lawn.