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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Troy-Bilt Cordless String Trimmer Draws the Lines

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.


  1. I know what you mean about the corded trimmers. I really have to be desperate before I get mine out.

    Edging really does make more of an impact than mowing the lawn. If I want to spruce up my garden quickly, instead of weeding, I trim the edges!

  2. Yep, I love our battery operated string trimmer. It is so convenient to be able to just pick it up and go without a trail of line behind me. Mine is an older model or I have more to trim because it takes me two batteries to do all my trimming.

  3. Nice review, Annie. Neither of you said anything about the noise factor--is it quieter, louder, or about the same as your old trimmer? Frankly, that's the main reason I despise all trimmers... the noise just makes me feel like I'm in combat with the yard when I'm using one.

  4. Not having to drag a cord all over the place is very attractive...Might have to try that here. Hey Troy Bilt! I'll review one, too;-) I totally agree on the importance of a good edge...It makes my jam packed borders look better. gail

  5. I'm going to ask Santa for a Troy-Bilt! Almost as good as a Red Ryder!

  6. Even though we don"t have a lawn we use a trimmer for tidying up along the street and around the large areas of wall where the septic field comes up to the house. I also use it to cut down the grasses which grow in our native areas. We are on our second electric B&D. The first did great service and the second was cheaper but not so well built. I would worry about how long the battery would last as we used to have a cordless drill with 2 batteries and they didn't last long enough for the investment. We have also had gas powered trimmer and they were always a devil for me to start. Sounds like this one works for you.

  7. I have never owned a trimmed. I tried one once and it was crappy. I was thinking about getting one. This one looks good. Thanks for testing it.

  8. We love our Troy Bilt electric trimmer. We don't have all that much grass, but when we need it and everything is overgrown, it comes through with flying colors.

  9. Hi Annie, thanks for this review. I've been thinking about one for the Lawn Man. We got a cordless leaf blower this year, and love not having to deal with tangling cords. I use it mostly for blowing off the patio since sweeping aggravates tendonitis in my wrists. Since getting it we're looking at all our corded yard and garden stuff and thinking how much more handy cordless would be. A cordless hedge trimmer would be awesome too.

  10. Hi Annie, My experience was similar to yours. It seems like a good trimmer, but I could not hold the trigger down good enough to keep an even speed. I gave it to my nephew who said it works very well for him.

  11. Thanks for commenting everyone!
    Hi Sylvana - you're right about a fast edging working as well as weeding! And mowing the parking strip helps too, because more weeds there.

    Lisa at Greenbow, my husband really prefers this battery trimmer over the previous corded ones - we have lots of edges, but the lot isn't large.

    Hello Blackswamp Girl - I asked Philo and he said at high speed they're all about the same, but this one does well on low speed, which is quieter.

    Tripping over the cord is no joke either, Gail - the battery powered trimmer seems safer to me!

    Either way you're supposed to wear eye protection, right? At least we don't see many icicles here, Morning Glories in Round Rock ;-]

    I hope the battery lasts on this one, Lancashire Jenny. Guess with your acreage corded tools wouldn't work at all, would they? The cords would be ridiculously long.

    It was an unexpected opportunity, Chigiy - we were happy to do it. Where I grew up the yards were at least an acre, no sidewalks or curbs and it looked okay when the edges weren't done. It really looks better when they're done here.

    Hello Katie That's good to know for the long-run -seeing what it did with the drive spaces impressed me!

    If your patio is like mine the furniture and pots turn a corded tool into spaghetti, Garden Girl. It's so nice to have the battery. Sorry about the tendonitis!

    Sorry it didn't work out for you, Carol, but glad your nephew likes it. I'm glad it works for Philo, too. Maybe we've ruined our index fingers for anything else but mousing around!


  12. Thanks for this. The trimmer seems to be a good investment, so far so good. Try to also look at these tips in having a good grass height for your lawn.

  13. Grasshopper, if there is anyone in Austin who doesn't know that mowing high is good practice for lawns in this climate, they must be living under a rock!

    We have wonderful local gardening shows on radio and TV to remind us, newspaper, radio and TV advice from the city to mow high and go organic, free handouts at every fest and more garden bloggers than any other city in the US.

    But to mow high there also must be something to grow. We've had a couple of years of record heat and drought and stage 2 water restrictions. Thanks for reading and commenting, but advice that is written for Florida may not work too well in Austin.



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