116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There's just something about a beautifully edged landscape.
You know — razor-defined beds and borders and sidewalks with trim, meticulously cut edges. So very different from lesser kept yards with grass growing a bit over the edges, the lines between flower beds and lawn a bit blurrier. If landscapes were human, it would be the difference between, say, a modest case of bed head and a freshly cut 'do, straight from the barbershop.
With the help of a power edger, you can give your landscape that kind of polish and snap. In fact, one fine spring day after I'd finished edging my front yard, a passerby stopped to admire my handiwork and my garden and gave it the best grooming compliment a yard can get: "Wow. It looks like a retired person lives here."
A power edger makes short work of slicing away overgrown grass from the edges of walks and pathways. It can also be the key tool in turf-edged beds and borders, an economical, elegant kind of edge.
How much work it is depends on your region. In Eastern Iowa, our cooler region has shorter growing seasons and more compliant, softer cool-season grasses with less vigorous roots systems, such as Kentucky bluegrass, turf cuts easily. It also grows for a shorter season, warranting just a couple of edgings per season—once in the early spring and once midsummer. In warmer climates, where warm-season grasses such as Zoysia grass and Bermuda grass are popular, grass is tougher to slice through, they regrow more aggressively, and the longer growing season can mean edging as often as six times throughout the year.
One reason people so often skip edging is because it isn't a critical chore — it's that extra step, albeit a worthwhile one. Edging is indeed a bit of work.
Go on a power trip
For very small landscapes with cool-season grasses, a half-moon or other hand tool edger may do the trick. But if you have more than a few dozen yards of grass to edge (and you want that sharp, smooth line that is most easily achieved with a power tool), a power edger is probably for you. You can rent, of course, but since edging is something you need to do regularly, it saves time and money to invest in an edger of your own, especially since some can be had for the price of just a couple of rental sessions.
As with all power tools, you want to go for the most power for your money with the least weight, at least for models without wheels. Also check the blade size — some are as long as 9 inches and cut as deep as two inches. Also look to see if the edger will cut at an angle — a nice feature for fancier bed and border turf edges and for laying some types of metal or plastic edging.
One other feature to look for: Trenching capacity. This is useful if you'll be laying cable or running electrical line through a conduit underground. Some edgers have trenching capacity built in while others have a kit you can purchase separately to adapt the edger.
Overall, there are basically two types of power edgers: gasoline and electric.
These are the most powerful type of edger — and how much power you have is important since an underpowered or badly designed edger simply won't do the trick. It will just gnaw at rather than slice through turf and make a sloppy edge (Unfortunately, a too-common problem with the least expensive, lightest edgers). But nearly all gas-powered trimmers are powerful enough to avoid gnawing and instead to deliver clean, fast slicing.
The rub is that gasoline edgers are also the most expensive. Most start at about $150. And since they operate on two-cycle engines, you have to deal with any fussiness in starting (an especially acute problem in cold weather), a little basic maintenance, and mixing fuel with gasoline.
Weight is not much of an issue with most gasoline edgers because they have wheels—either one wheel to guide them or four to support as well as guide them. Some four-wheeled types even have a neat "curb hopper" feature where one wheel adjusts to go up on a curb or sidewalk to avoid tipping the machine.
Electric edgers as a group 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 edgers are available in both corded and battery-powered models. Corded edgers tend to be more powerful than their battery counterparts, but you can use them only so far from the power source.
Corded edgers have the problem of potentially slicing through the power cord. Fortunately, the way most edgers are designed these days, slicing through the cord is seldom a problem, but do look for a "cord retention system" a feature that keep the cord plugged into the machine.
Battery-powered edgers have most of the same advantages of corded types but also give you the freedom of moving far away from an electrical power source and not messing with 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 fine even if it's significantly heavier.
Other power tools, such as string trimmers and power hedge trimmers, can also be used as edgers, either with a built-in feature or by purchasing additional parts.
The effectiveness of these types of adapted edgers can vary, but as a rule, more powerful the engine on the machine, the better any attachments will function. The least effective type of edger is the string trimmer that with an adjustment of the head can be turned into a string edger. These are OK for trimming a little off the edges around sidewalks and pavement, but aren't very good about slicing through soil.
Since the quality and ease of use with 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 out the controls and startup system. If the edger doesn't have wheels, carry it around a bit to see if its weight is suitable for your strength and if you'll be able to hold it for, say, an hour or more.
Also, be sure to check into return policies. Unlike say, a snowblower, an edger is easy to return if you are not satisfied. Most retailers will allow you to return a power tool that you found disappointing as long as you have a receipt and it's within a specified period of time (usually 30 days).
With a good power edger, you're on your way to having a significantly better-groomed landscape. Those who have them find them positively addicting because with just minutes of work, your landscape looks so much better.
However, be forewarned. When your neighbors see how great your yard looks and find out you have a tool that can help their yards look half as good, they're going to want to borrow it. Be prepared to hide your power edger — or at least negotiate an invitation for a good cold drink in their backyard later by way of repayment.
Do it regularly. Over time, grass starts to grow over the edges of sidewalks and beds, taking with it slowly eroding soil. Don't edge just once a year or you'll inevitably be taking off slices of soil with the grass, creating an unattractive mini cliff that's also the perfect bare spot for weeds to invade. It also creates a raised edge that your mower will scalp for weeks.
Edging two times a year in cooler seasons and every other month or so in warm climates prevents these problems.
Keep the blade sharp. If your edger has a blade, keep it sharpened by taking it in to a mower repair shop or doing it yourself once every several edgings. Or keep a replacement blade on hand. Depending on your model, they're not expensive, usually under $10 and often under $5.
Be wary when edging invasive plants. If trimming an invasive grass, such as Bermuda grass or turf infested with bits of weeds such as purslane, make sure all the bits of root and foliage are out of the edger before tackling another part of the lawn or you may spread the invasive plant.
Be safe. Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and safety glasses to protect yourself against flying debris, especially with more powerful edgers. Avoid larger sticks and small rocks — try to remove them before you begin edging.