About Edging and Trimming

No matter what type of lawn mower you use, it will inevitably miss a few stray blades of grass in hard-to-reach areas. Trimming (that is, cutting stray high grasses) and edging (grooming the lawn’s edges by cutting along them vertically) give the lawn a finished look.

Essential Tools

A number of tools make edging and trimming easier:

Hand-operated grass shears work like scissors for trimming and even edging small lawns. Long-handled grass shears are better than short-handled ones because they allow you to stand up as you cut.

An edger is better for the edging operation because it is specialized to cut vertically. There are two manual types:

  • A turf edger — a semicircular blade at the end of a long handle.
  • A rotary edger — a star-shaped cutting wheel is attached to a plastic or rubber guide wheel, also at the end of a long handle.

A power trimmer or edger should be used for large lawns or those with many edges, or to save time and fatigue. Power trimmers may run on gasoline or electricity.

  • The string trimmer is most common. It cuts with a rapidly whirling nylon filament that rotates at the end of a long handle. The handle is usually curved to allow the string to cut at a more convenient angle. In addition to being used for edging a lawn, this device is useful for trimming patches of tall weeds and grasses. Be sure to wear goggles when using this type of trimmer so that your eyes are protected against flying debris.
  • Gas-powered trimmers with reciprocating blades are somewhat safer to use than string trimmers because they eject less debris, and because the blades stop as soon as the engine is turned off. Like string trimmers, they are easy to handle and are fairly lightweight.

Edging Tips

Edge first — Although many edge and trim after mowing, many lawn care professionals actually perform these tasks before mowing a lawn. By doing this, the lawn clippings generated by edging and trimming are picked up by the mower as it collects the clippings or mulches them into the lawn.

Beware of trees— It is important to use power trimmers carefully around trees and other plants. Trees can be killed or severely damaged if the cambium layer just under the bark is injured. To shield small lawn trees against damage, wrap a trunk protector around the base of each tree. Available at many nurseries, trunk protectors are rectangles of heavy-duty perforated plastic that have been pre-rolled to stay in place around a trunk. An alternative is to create a mulch ring around the tree.

Watch for landscaping— Power edgers can damage wood and concrete edgings, as well as fences and decks — or be damaged by them — if not used with care. When working along a concrete edging, try to minimize contact between the tool and the concrete surface, as this quickly wears down the blade.

Despite the precautions they require, edgers make the task of edging easier by providing a smooth, straight surface along which to guide tools.