How to Weed Eat Like a Pro
Weed eating doesn’t mean adding extra plant fiber to your diet; it means trimming grass and cutting weeds with a string trimmer — not necessarily one manufactured by the Weed Eater company. As for any garden tool, there’s a good way and a better way to use a string trimmer, and the better way is the one that produces professional results. Familiarity with your machine is as important as developing the proper cutting techniques.
Getting Ready to Weed-Eat
Trimmers come in a variety of sizes and power ratings, with straight or curved shafts and powered by gas, propane or electricity. A straight-shaft, gas-powered model is useful for a wide variety of purposes and is most likely to produce professional results. Before starting it, find the most comfortable orientation for the adjustable handle so that you won’t get overtired while using the machine. Note which way the head spins, and make sure you’re using the proper string so you can work efficiently without overworking your trimmer. Wear goggles, closed-toe shoes and heavy pants to protect yourself from flying rocks and other debris.
Keep the String Long
Whether you’re cutting weeds or trimming grass, you need the maximum cutting power your trimmer can supply, and you get this by keeping the string as long as possible. Most models come with a bump feed mechanism that advances the string when you tap the trimmer on the ground while it’s running. You should use this frequently. Most models have a blade attached to the deflector that automatically trims the string. Although it isn’t a recommended safety practice, you may consider removing this blade. The string is too long when it causes the trimmer to vibrate, but just before that point is the optimum cutting length for power and control.
Moving the Trimmer
When trimming along the edges of lawns and against fences and buildings, you want the debris to fly away from the area you’re trimming so it doesn’t accumulate. To ensure that happens, note which direction the head spins — most spin counterclockwise — and move the trimmer so that the leading edge of the string is in the same direction as the movement. For example, move the trimmer from right to left if the head spins counterclockwise. If you keep the trimmer head slightly ahead of your body, debris should fly safely past you.
Trimming and Edging
Holding the trimmer so that the cutting head is parallel to the ground isn’t the best practice — it usually results in grass that’s too short and cut unevenly. A better practice is to hold the trimmer so that the head is slightly angled down toward the area you’re trimming. This gives you more control so you can blend the area you’re trimming more evenly with the rest of the lawn. When cutting along the edge of a garden, turn the tool so that the head is perpendicular to the ground, then edge inside the garden to produce a clean, discrete border.
- Popular Mechanics: How to Use a String Trimmer Like a Pro
- This Old House: How to Use a String Trimmer
- Arning Lawns: How to Weedeat Like a Pro
Chris Deziel has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.How to Weed Eat Like a Pro. Weed eating doesn’t mean adding extra plant fiber to your diet; it means trimming grass and cutting weeds with a string trimmer — not necessarily one manufactured by the Weed Eater company. As for any garden tool, there’s a good way and a better way to use a string trimmer, and the …
We always try to educate our customers on the proper care of their lawns. But we mostly tell them what to do, not what NOT to do. Here’s the short story:
Watering too little
Watering too frequently
Hand-watering the lawn with a hose
Mowing too little
Mowing too short or too high
Mowing with a dull blade
Weed-eating against tree trunks
Killing bermuda runners and seed heads
Leaving objects on the lawn
Seeding fescue in the spring
Skipping fertilizer during a drought
Using Roundup in your lawn when it’s green
Expecting grass to grow where the dogs run
Scalping or dethatching at the wrong time
And here’s the long story:
Watering too little, too frequently, or hand-watering the lawn. Your lawn needs
1 1/2″ to 2″ of water per week, year-round. Watering deeply twice per week is MUCH more beneficial than sprinkling it daily. Hand-watering your grass is useless unless you stand out there all day. Read all about proper watering.
Mowing too little, mowing too short or too high, or with a dull blade. You should mow frequently enough that you mow off only 1/3 of the grass blade each time, and you don’t have to bag the clippings. Mowing off more of the grass blade at once will result in a brown lawn after mowing. Fescue must be mowed much higher than bermuda, or it will not survive in the summer. Mowing with a dull blade will tear the grass, not cut it, and result in a brown lawn. Read all about proper mowing.
Weed-eating against tree trunks. Randy Pirtle, OSU County Extension Director, says “One of the leading causes of death to trees in the landscape is what we refer to as weed-eater or lawnmower ‘blight’.” In other words, keep your lawn mower and your weed whacker away from tree trunks! To make this easier, mulch around your trees so you don’t have to get near the trunk. Put down mulch 2-3″ thick, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk. Problem solved!
Killing bermuda runners and seed heads. What? You have no idea how many people think bermuda runners and bermuda seed heads are weeds! And they spray them, trying to kill them!! Bermuda is a warm-season grass that spreads by underground rhizomes and above-ground stolons. These are bermuda stolons (or “runners”):
The picture bottom right shows bermuda seed heads:
Note: If you are mowing properly, you won’t see the seed heads. If you don’t edge, you will see stolons along the curb, on the driveway & sidewalks, etc. (and, of course, in your flowerbeds!)
Leaving objects on your lawn. Whether it’s trash cans, or a trampoline or a garden hose, it will kill the grass.
Seeding fescue in the spring, seeding bermuda. Fescue’s growing season starts in the fall and therefore it should be seeded in the fall. Bermuda spreads, so if it’s mowed, watered, and fertilized properly, you should never have to seed it!
Pulling weeds. Weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for 40 years and longer! When you pull a weed, you disturb the dormant seeds, and give them an excuse to germinate. That’s why you always see them in the flowerbeds where you dig all the time! Weed roots also have root hairs, so when you think you got the roots, you didn’t really. (Also, if we can’t see them, we can’t spray them.)
Skipping the fertilizer during a drought. It seems logical that when your grass is dormant and brown it doesn’t need fertilizer. Couldn’t be farther from the truth! Your grass is stressed when it’s dormant in the summer and needs nourishment – its root system is still active. When the rains come, it will spring back to life so fast you won’t believe it. IF it’s been fertilized.
Using Roundup© in your lawn when it’s green. Roundup© is a great product, but it’s designed to take out anything actively growing. While it will kill weeds, it will also kill your grass. Any product containing glyphosate will do the same. ALWAYS read the label on weed control materials.
Expecting grass to grow where the dogs run. Won’t happen! Dogs running and lying in the same place day after day will compact your soil until it’s hard as a rock, and nothing will grow there. Same goes for heavy traffic areas or the place under your child’s swing. There are solutions for compaction, but unless you change the circumstances, they won’t help.
Scalping or dethatching too early or too late. Scalping or dethatching bermuda or zoysia lawns should be done late enough that there is no longer a chance of frost, and early enough that the grass has time to recover before winter, and never when it’s stressed from heat or drought.We like to educate people about proper lawn care procedures, but here’s a list of what NOT to do! Common lawn care mistakes… ]]>