As Graham Stuart Thomas once noted, "It is my opinion that it is even more important to attend to the edges than the mowing: slightly shaggy grass can be forgiven so long as the edges are trim."
Even when it's not 100 degrees every day, even when there is rain, even when we're not under Stage 2 Drought restrictions, our idea of an acceptable lawn is pretty laid-back and reasonably drought-tolerant. This isn't a well-fed and watered lawn - it lives on whatever rain falls, and whatever seeps via osmosis from the adjoining beds, shrubs and small trees which I hand-water. And even in this dreadful year when much of the grass in sun died, it survived in the shade under trees.Shorn meadow might be a better description than lawn for the green stuff connecting the beds, borders and walks. It's kept reasonably short, can be walked on year-round, and keeps the dust down. When native anemones bloom in the grass in spring or rainlilies pop up in it in late summer it becomes our flowery mead. Even with beds and borders providing height, color and texture, it makes a difference to sharpen up the line of the edge.
We've used an assortment of string trimmers during our 30+ years in 5 different yards - my husband Philo was ready to throw the most recent off a cliff. Fellow garden blogger MSS of Zanthan Gardens began a test of a Cordless String Trimmer for the Troy-Bilt company but was unable to complete it. It sounded good when she suggested that we take the assembled machine, try it out and write a review. Once this was proposed to the Troy-Bilt people they agreed we could have the string trimmer to keep at no charge, asking only that we post an honest review on our blog, with no restrictions on what to say.
Troy-Bilt 20-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Electric String Trimmer (model TB57)
Different lawn grasses present different problems. St Augustine doesn't grow by seed or in neat clumps.... it has wide blades, and it throws long runners out in every direction, looking for a spot to root and grow. In just a couple of weeks the stolons will sneak in and make a crisscrossing mesh over the soft, watered soil of a flower bed that will need hours of hand-weeding to remove. Sometimes in a dry summer we may skip mowing the center of the lawn for a month but the grass next to the beds looks ragged in a week. The whole garden would look better if the edges of the beds could be sharpened up whenever the grass looked ready to jump.
This kind of impulse-edging never happened with our corded electric trimmer.... just thinking about unwinding the cord and winding it back up again was enough to skip the task. And when we do get enough rain to make the grass grow we don't want to use a tool that is plugged in. I hoped the cordless model would encourage light maintenance rather than drastic all-day jobs.So far this trimmer has done a good job. Philo has used it more than I have - to hold the trimmer the right way seems to be easier for a guy (or perhaps it would be easier for a more flat-chested woman). Unfortunately I have found it almost impossible to press the trigger button for more than a couple of minutes. I can mow for a long time because the safety switch has me grip and hold a spring bar against the handle, but on the trimmer my fingers are unable to stretch across, bend a certain way and depress the button without pain.
Here's what Philo has to say about the Troy-Bilt Cordless Trimmer:
The trimmer feels well balanced and is comfortably natural for me to use. Being ambidextrous, I found it equally easy cutting left or right handed and I find myself switching often to speed the trim. The bi-directional trigger release allows hand switching and accommodates using the forefinger or thumb to be used for release.
After trimming about 500 feet of walkway, the lithium battery still had 75% charge - the charge remaining lights are a nice feature. I can cut our entire yard twice over a 2 week period without needing to recharge. This is about 1-1/2 hours total run time.
The variable speed motor is easy to control and is smooth at all speeds. I’ve never before used a trimmer at low speeds, but this machine does an excellent job at low speed and can do some slower more delicate cutting (if you can call line trimming delicate at any speed).
The two line spools that come with the trimmer are a thoughtful addition. They’re small enough to fit in a pocket and can be swapped in few seconds when one runs out. However, the automatic line advance could use some improvement. During every cutting session the line gets reduced to an unusable short length at least once. The manual states that line tangling is the likely cause and recommends removing the spool to correct the problem. I have never found a tangled line but I soon learned that there is a push button release below the spool that quickly advances the line without having to remove the spool. The release button is not mentioned in the manual.
The Troy-Bilt handled the long, tough stolons of the St Augustine grass very well! Above is another of the tasks that this line trimmer did well - buzzing down the horrible bermuda grass that has invaded the expansion strip in the driveway.
Thanks, Troy-Bilt, for giving us a chance to try and use this machine.
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