Susan Harris
All about gardening the eco-friendly way, by Susan Harris and 22 other garden writers and experts.

Trimmer/edger for alternative lawns – and giveaway!

June 23, 2010 · 19 comments

Just as I was researching how best to maintain my replacement-type lawns (clover and creeping perennials), the tool guys at Black&Decker offered me a spanking new 24-Volt Cordless String Trimmer/Edger to review and boy howdy, did I say yes.

My Review

In trim mode I needed it to shorten the groundcovers along the stone pathway and it accomplished that easily, even using the Normal power setting (there’s also a Boost setting).    Then in edger mode I wanted to trim around all the stepping stones, which were completely hidden by plants.  This was also easy but actually fun because it uncovered my long-missing fieldstones.

Before and after shots above, and below is a little video demonstrating both trim and edge modes.

Next, I tried the trimmer out on my neighbor’s Liriope spicata (right),  which in its vigor was obscuring her stepping stones, and again it did the job easily.  This is really good news because us Lawn Reformers can promote these plants as super-low-care alternatives to lawns, with no mowing required.  Just a couple of trims each season can, I think, keep lawn-like but turfgrass-free spaces neat and navigable.

B&D also asked me to comment on comfort and weight and I can say I was totally comfortable using the thing.  I did put on hard clogs for the job – Safety First! – but then proceeded to do the job with my legs bare – Safety Not So Much!  Like too many customers, I didn’t read all the safety precautions, but I just bet that covering your legs is one of them.

Now having used a corded electric lawnmower and hated that damn cord with surprising intensity, I’ve gotta say the cord-free nature of this tool is fabulous.  What freedom!  I used the trimmer for about 30 minutes on a single charge and I assume it’ll last longer than that, but don’t know yet exactly how long.

How Green is It?
That’s the question everyone’s asking about everything – fair nuf – and it’s not a slamdunk in this case because some amount of electricity IS required, though not much for just a path.  The point is, it’s far better than any gas-powered cutting device because it produces no emissions.

And keeping in mind the many gardeners who need power tools, we don’t point fingers at their use, responsibly done.   Count me in as a Boomer desperately seeking ways to garden standing up, not kneeling and bending over.   Ouch.

So what ARE the human-powered tool alternatives? One option is the old-fashioned sycthe, but the motion is a wide side-to-side affair, which is good at whacking down meadows but not for fine trimming in the garden.   For edging only, there are nonpower tools for that and I hope to try one out soon.

How to Win One
If you’d like one of these handy tools for your own lawn – alternative or regular – just leave a comment to win one.  Tell us why you need a cordless trimmer/edger, what you’d do with it, how crappy your yard looks without it – you get the idea.  Entries accepted til 6 p.m. EDT Sunday June 27.


1 anita June 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

OMGoddess, I would love one of these. My front and back yards are slowly converting and I could use the help here in central IA.


2 C.Stanton June 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Owning this little baby could potential save my life!
My backyard is partially developed, split into 2 sections by a 8 foot drop in elevation. The top portion I have created a fabulous little garden area that flourishes with trees and flowers – a safe haven for the area birds and bee population. Over the years I have slowly removed the sod from the top portion, replacing it with bark, groundcovers and this year I’ve added some Dutch White Clover! The lower portion is nothing but crabgrass and weeds…however it is also the home for my raised veggie beds. The weeds here are monsters! Because my garden is organic, I use no weed treatments or chemicals. I’m a tiny person, a mere 5′ in height and I have to say that my current gas weedeater is a beast to carry around. I often am not able to complete the lower portion in one day because of the shear weight of the equipment and the vibrations – my arms go numb! Having something lighter, portable (no gas, no cord) that could tackle not only keeping my ground covers AND my large weed area in the back would save my life…well, at least make my life much more rewarding as I’m sure it would allow me to finish the job faster and with no aches or pains from lugging around that huge beast I currently have.

Help save a life – consider me for this give-away prize, please?

Colette Stanton

3 Kathy English June 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I had been getting rid of my front lawn for years. I finally finished it a couple of years ago, in a burst of creativity following the death of my beloved dog. This year, I had a septic emergency which eradicated much of my back lawn, a mess, but a big opportunity for an anti lawn activist such as myself.

I have recently started a small gardening business called (of course) English Gardens. One of my goals is to persuade others to give up their lawns, by showing them the alternatives, and how much easier it can be.

I could help others see things our way, AND help sell that edger, should I be the lucky winner!

4 Crystal Miron June 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I have actually been window shopping for an electric trimmer for awhile now, but the search has taken on a new urgency with my HOA sending me a “Final Notice” about needing to remove weeds from “all areas of my lawn”.

I *think* the basis of this notice rests largely on the complaints of the neighbor who lives behind me. (But alas, a letter written to them for clarification was met with the reply that our covenants require attention to weeds in the lawn.) The neighbors in question put up their fence about 15 feet from the property line years before we bought the house in order to grant themselves a nice, square, flat backyard… and incidentally abandoning a steep narrow hill to the back of my property. If I said the hill was mostly at a 30 degree pitch, I would not be exaggerating.

These detail oriented neighbors (with their 8 foot privacy fence uphill of my home) seem to expect that I should drag my gas powered lawn mower up this hill on a weekly basis and keep the “weeds” mowed. “Weeds” in this case being Fescue grass that I currently go and cut with a manual grass scissor only a few times year, as opposed to taking the chance of falling under the deck of the lawn mower on a regular basis.

I also have a nice thicket of wild blackberries growing in one corner of the yard, I am sure these “brambles” are where every snake, spider, and vermin in their imaginations live. I go out there and pick blackberries in my flip-flops and have yet to see a snake, a rat, or even a spider of any major consequence.

So anyways… this ongoing battle to meet suburban expectations has led to a good number of hours on my hands and knees selectively pulling weeds out of the yard. More so in the past few weeks due to the Final Notice, despite it being in the 90′s here in Georgia. I have 30 days to bring the lawn “up to snuff” before they can charge me $10 a day for my continued criminal negligence.

I tend to focus on the most obvious weedy offenders, those in obvious view of the street and adjacent neighbor and hope the rest will get a reprieve if I simply keep the lawn acceptably mowed. I take special care to pull the weeds that grow “like weeds” and far outpace the growth and height of the grass.

Being able to actually edge the lawn and trim neatly around the mailbox and along the fence might just earn me a couple of much needed brownie points.

I admit it, I am a “natural” lawn person… I really have no reasonable excuse for living in the suburbs of Atlanta in a neighborhood with an HOA. I clearly had no idea what I was getting myself into. What was once described as a “relaxed, community involved HOA” when we moved in has clearly evolved into the “Official Office of Lawn Based Persecution” over the years.

I grew up with a large, rural Minnesotan lawn bedazzled with dandelions. I don’t feel my property value declining or the crime rate rising exponentially when I see a patch of clover in the neighborhood. I would rather be up to my eyebrows in goldenrod than put any potentially hazardous chemical on my lawn. I am clearly a deeply flawed individual.

I think many weeds are actually kind of neat and interesting, and clearly they are much better suited to grow in my yard than the Bermuda grass. When I recently found “Narrowleaf Vetch” growing sporadically around the yard, I was delighted by it’s tiny little purple flowers and it’s delicate looking seed pods. I openly confess to digging it up and transplanting it to the backyard where it will hopefully escape scrutiny by the Lawn Enforcers!

An electric trimmer would help make quick work of some of my biggest “lawn offenses”. It might even give me some time to actually go use the pool or the other amenities my annual HOA dues pay for. It sure would be nice to get something for my money for once besides constant harassment! :)

5 meemsnyc June 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

We could totally use this B&D trimmer to trim around the picket fence that surrounds our veggie garden, to trim the grass around the grape vines, and to trim around our rose bushes! This would be so awesome to have to help with our outdoor chores!

6 David Schmetterling June 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

I’d love this trimmer to help maintain our front yard prairie, and a neighborhood park we’ve been landscaping. I hope I win! Thanks Susan!

7 Gerogia Totten June 24, 2010 at 9:52 am

I’ll throw my wide-brimmed garden hat into this ring and state that I am a 60-year-old garden lover who is still recovering from picking strawberries last month, a task that pretty well necessitates the end of my arduous hand trimming. I am in the slow but steady process of building a stone path greened by creeping moss and grasses and have a large back yard that is hurricane fenced with raised beds about half way around. My yard slopes and I maintain a grassy/perennial planted creekbed in the back. Like Ms Harris, I’m a first wave baby boomer who is looking for ways to garden standing up. Thank you for considering me!

8 Cassandra June 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm

We’ve got drainage pipes that are KILLER to get with our mower. This would totally help!


irrelevantheart AT gmail DOT com!

9 Earth Girl June 25, 2010 at 8:19 am

We have a tree farm, planted as a riparian buffer zone along the river to improve water quality. There is no electricity at the farm, so when I need to do some serious trimming, this tool would be perfect! I also garden three acres at home and the fence always needs trimming. I hate the gas trimmer, even when I can get it started and there is just not enough extension cords to get to the meadow.

10 Clare June 25, 2010 at 8:54 am

I’m another Boomer who is looking for ways to streamline my yard care. I was amazed by how quite this is in the video! So much better than my gas trimmer. Earplugs, anyone? I take care of my 1/3 acre lot by myself, alone, so this would really be of help to me.

Thanks for offering this Susan, and for the consideration.

11 Laura June 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

If I had a vote to cast it would be for Crystal – fight the (HOA) power !

But I wouldn’t mind it for myself, either. I currently use an electric trimmer with a cord. That cord has been run over by the electric mower & sliced by the trimmer so many times its day-glo orange outside has nearly all been replaced with electrical tape. Safety hazard ? Yes ! But, see, I married an accountant & the cost-benefit analysis apparently states that someone (e.g., ME) needs to actually be electrocuted before we can replace that cord, never mind the trimmer.

12 Evelyn Hadden June 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Hi, Susan, and thanks for testing this out and sharing your experience with us. I give talks about different options for shrinking your lawn, and one of the biggest questions people have when switching to lawn alternatives is how to maintain them. I think that if we can collectively teach each other some new techniques (like you demonstrate in your before-and-after shots and your video), it will be easier for more of us to move away from lawns. I can see people doing all kinds of fun designs with groundcovers and stepping stones if they have an easier way to keep them trimmed a couple times a season. Especially in areas where we walk or gather, this seems like a great approach to lower-maintenance and more eco-friendly landscaping.

(No need to include me in your drawing, just wanted to thank you for a great post!)

13 Val June 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Our lawn is full of clover–love it just the way it is. What I don’t love is clipping the grass (with scissors!) around my cedar plank raised beds, which for some reason I placed in the middle of said lawn without paths. This would be perfect for clipping around those as well as my flower beds, and also trimming the liriope that came with my walkway.

14 Deirdre June 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I HATE the gas powered trimmer we have. It’s heavy. It’s noisy, and the vibration makes my hands and arms tingle. I refuse to use it. I do whatever trimming I need to do by hand.

15 Wen June 26, 2010 at 11:51 am

Does this really work on Liriope? I’ve been using hand clippers. A pro at the local public garden said the only way to cut the stuff is mow it down; a string cutter just shreds it. I saw that she was right as the lawn crew next door made a mess of it with a string cutter, shredded and ragged.
It would be great to use a strong battery operated string cutter. My current electric one has shredded it’s own cover and the new ones I’ve found don’t measure up. Not a boomer, older.

16 Warren June 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I strongly believe in sustainability and water/energy conservation and instead of having a thirsty bluegrass front lawn in my new house in Colorado, I opted for the xeric buffalograss and blue gramma grass mix, which makes my yard look different from all the other yards my subdivision. It’s great in that these two natives species are *mostly* low maintenance. I mow it once a year (with a reel mower) in the spring to keep that short grass prairie look yearlong and water once a week during the hottest part of the summer. In the fall, the seed heads come out and it looks even better. My favorite part is when it is breezy out and my lawn ripples with the wind like it is a pool of water. Given all that, buffalograss grows runners like crazy and when I saw your picture of the stone pathway covered, I completely identify with your problem. I, too, have a flagstone pathway and the runners cover it up way too easily. Not having any powered lawn tools, I have to manually clip, rip, and trim to uncover the stone. I also manually trim the edges of the “lawn” for a clean edge and that maintained cared-for look to appease the HOA. It is labor intensive in that aspect. If I have the Black & Decker 24-Volt Cordless String Trimmer/Edger, it will make lawn care that much easier. I was completely amazed by your video how fast and easy you were able to clear the walkway and get the job done. I hope to use the trimmer to continue to maintain a low water bluegrass-alternative yard that’s natural yet neat and visually pleasing so that my neighbors can see the beauty and merits of a non-bluegrass lawn. Hopefully, it will inspire them to rip out their own lawns and install something that’s xeric and uses much less water. Thanks for your consideration.

17 Karen Creely June 27, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Hi Susan, Not only did I just get married (we are 17 days into marital bliss) but we bought our first home 5 days later…crazy I know! Well the house is just what we wanted and now we have a yard to plant up! There are beautiful groundcover all around the home and I want to be able to care for the walkways like the previous owners had and this Trimmer would be a great wedding/house warming gift!!! Please consider us for this wonderful opportunity!
Thanks Susan,

18 rachel crisman June 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I would love a cordless trimmer! I could trim around all that concrete and trim out in the alley which is covered with blackberry bramble!I have been trimming the bramble by hand and I get stuck all the time. Plus, my son just got poison ivy,I could cut it down with ease if I had one. It looks great and easy to use too!!! Please count me in!!! I have my fingers crossed!

19 Jackie June 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Wow. My husband and I were just discussing our need for one of these. I told him if we got a cordless one, that I would use it myself, instead of asking him to do the weed-eating. We don’t have a lawn anymore, but drought-tolerant plants instead. However, we still have some weeds in the backyard where our suburban chickens play. Thanks for the review!

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