The Iowa Gardener: Choosing the Right Edger for Neat Landscaping

Natural borders take hard work. An edger can make your job easier. (Chicago Tribune / TNS)

There is just something about a beautifully bordered landscape.

You know – razor-defined beds and borders and sidewalks with meticulously cut edges. So different from less manicured gardens with grass growing a bit around the edges, the lines between the flower beds and the lawn a bit more blurry. If the landscapes were human, that would be the difference between, say, a modest headboard and a freshly cut headboard straight out of the barber shop.

With the help of an electric edger, you can give your landscape that kind of polish and slam. In fact, one beautiful spring day after I finished demarcating my front yard, a passerby stopped to admire my work and my garden and gave him the best grooming compliment a yard can get: “Wow. Looks like a retired person lives here. “

An electric edger quickly cuts overgrown grass from the edges of driveways and trails. It can also be the key tool in flower beds and lawn edging, an economical and stylish type of edging.

The amount of work depends on your region. In eastern Iowa, our cooler region has shorter growing seasons and softer, softer cool-season grasses with less vigorous root systems, like Kentucky bluegrass, the turf is easily cut. It also grows for a shorter season, warranting only a few edging per season, once in early spring and once in mid-summer. In warmer climates, where warm season grasses such as Zoysia grass and Bermuda grass are popular, the grass is more difficult to cut, it regrows more aggressively, and the longer growing season can mean a edging up to six times a year.

One of the reasons people skip curbs so often is that it’s not a critical chore – it’s that extra step, even if it’s worth it. The edging is indeed a bit of work.

A defined edge around the flower beds adds a clean finishing touch to the yard. (Chicago Tribune / TNS)

Go on a journey of power

For very small landscapes with cool-season grasses, a half-moon edger or other hand tool may do the trick. But if you’ve got more than a few tens of yards of grass to cut (and want that neat, smooth line that’s most easily achieved with a power tool), then an electric edger is probably for you. You can of course hire, but since edging is something you need to do on a regular basis, it saves time and money by investing in your own edger, especially since some may be purchased for the price of a few rental sessions.

As with all power tools, you want to get the most power for your money with the least amount of weight, at least for models without wheels. Also check the size of the blade – some measure up to 9 inches and cut up to two inches deep. Also check to see if the edger is cutting at an angle – a great feature for more sophisticated lawn edging and for laying certain types of metal or plastic edging.

Another feature to look for: the ability to dig trenches. This is useful if you are laying a cable or running a power line through an underground conduit. Some edgers have a built-in slicing capability while others have a kit that you can purchase separately to adapt the edger.

Overall, there are basically two types of electric trimmers: gasoline and electric.

Gasoline trimmer

This is the most powerful type of edger – and the horsepower you have available is important, because an underpowered or poorly designed edger just won’t do. It will only eat away at the grass rather than cutting it and creating a sloppy edge (Unfortunately, an all-too-common problem with the cheapest and lightest trimmers). But almost all gasoline mowers are powerful enough to prevent gnawing and instead offer a clean, fast slicing.

The catch is that gasoline edgers are also the most expensive. Most start at around $ 150. And since they run on two-stroke engines, you have to deal with any difficulty starting (a problem especially acute in cold weather), a little basic maintenance, and a mixture of fuel and gasoline.

Weight isn’t much of an issue with most gasoline edgers as they have wheels, either one wheel to guide them or four to support and guide them. Some four-wheeled types even have a neat “curb hopper” feature where one wheel adjusts to ride on a curb or curb to avoid tipping the machine.

Electric trimmers

Group electric trimmers are wonderfully light and quiet, allowing you to use them without irritating your neighbors, at least not much. They also vibrate less than gasoline edgers, and they have no emissions to choke you or the planet.

Electric trimmers are available in corded and battery powered models. Corded edgers tend to be more powerful than their battery-powered counterparts, but you can only use them so far away from the power source.

Line edgers have the problem of potentially slicing the power cord. Fortunately, the way most edgers are designed these days, cutting the cord is rarely a problem, but look for a “cord retention system,” a feature that keeps the cord plugged into the machine.

Battery-powered edgers have many of the same benefits as corded types, but also give you the freedom to step away from a power source and not disturb a cord. They tend to be slightly heavier and tend to have less power. Look for a light model if it doesn’t have a wheel; a heavier model will work well even if it is significantly heavier.

Other options

Other power tools, such as electric string trimmers and hedge trimmers, can also be used as edgers, either with a built-in function or by purchasing additional parts.

The efficiency of these types of suitable edgers can vary, but as a general rule, the more powerful the machine motor, the better the attachments will perform. The least efficient type of edger is the edger which, with adjustment of the head, can be transformed into an edger. These are suitable for cutting the edges of sidewalks and sidewalks a bit, but are not very good for slicing through the ground.

Since the quality and ease of use of an edger varies so much, do your research online. Check the reviews. If possible, hold a few edgers at a store to see how they fit in your hand and how they handle. Check the controls and the starting system. If the edger doesn’t have wheels, haul it around a bit to see if its weight is suitable for your strength and if you can hold it for, say, an hour or more.

Also be sure to check the return policies. Unlike, for example, a snow blower, an edger is easy to turn over if you are not satisfied. Most retailers will allow you to return a power tool that you have found disappointing as long as you have a receipt and it is within a specified time (usually 30 days).

With a good edger, you are on your way to a much better maintained landscape. Those who have them find them positively addicting because with a few minutes of work, your landscape is so much more beautiful.

However, be forewarned. When your neighbors see how beautiful your garden is and find that you have a tool that can help their garden look half as good, they’ll want to borrow it. Be prepared to hide your edger – or at least negotiate an invitation for a nice cold drink in their garden later as a refund.

Tips for a better border

Do it regularly. Over time, grass begins to grow on the edges of sidewalks and flower beds, dragging slowly eroding soil with it. Don’t just cut once a year or you’ll inevitably remove slices of soil along with the grass, creating an unattractive mini cliff that is also the perfect bare spot for weeds to invade. It also creates a raised edge that your mower will scalp for weeks.

Edging twice a year during cooler seasons and every two months or so in hot climates avoids these problems.

Keep the blade sharp. If your edger has a blade, keep it sharp by taking it to a mower repair shop or doing it yourself once every several cuts. Or keep a spare blade handy. Depending on your model, they are not expensive, usually less than $ 10 and often less than $ 5.

Be careful when cutting down invasive plants. If you are cutting an invasive grass, such as Bermuda grass or grass infested with pieces of weeds such as purslane, make sure that all root and foliage pieces are clear of the edger before tackling a tree. other part of the lawn, otherwise you risk spreading the invasive plant.

Be careful. Wear sturdy shoes, long pants, and safety glasses to protect yourself from flying debris, especially with more powerful edgers. Avoid large sticks and small stones – try to remove them before you start carving.

Terri S. Tomasini