The Easy Guide to Trimming and Edging Your Yard Like a Pro
This post is made in partnership with STIHL. All opinions (and yard work) are my own.
I have a confession to make. I really don’t like working out at a gym…. I like the weight machines, but I don’t love the atmosphere. Getting on a treadmill or such for 30 minutes feels worse than pulling teeth: you see no results at the end, and you’ve been working hard for 30 minutes… So, I’ve decided that I am taking over the lawn care this summer as a treadmill alternative! We have about an acre of grass to mow, and if I separate it into zones I can get 3 -30 to 45 minute plus workouts a week JUST mowing (not using the auto drive on the mower btw). I am really enjoying it so far.
Benefits of doing the lawn care myself:
I am outside, enjoying the weather, possibly getting some added vitamin D! (I can dream about someday having a beautiful tan, but alas, my melanin is on a permanent vacation.)
I get to see some immediate results when I am done. This really helps with my desire to get things done that matter. I have huge to-do lists, and not having tangible results after a workout usually makes me feel less motivated to try it again. Doing the lawn care gives me immediate tangible results – and a good workout!
I finally have some time to “read” or just get thinking. I’ve been listening to an uplifting, motivational, or thought provoking audiobook or podcast. It is helping me to be more motivated throughout the week to push myself. Also, I have two adorable little talkers at my house, and it is nice to have some time to think a full complete thought without being interrupted.
I don’t have to pay someone… technically, I am taking time away from working to do this, so in actuality I may be losing money, but it is filling needs that I have for physical work and a break from the day job.
I will admit: the most I’ve ever really done is mow. But if I am taking over the lawn care for real, then I also need to take care of the trimming, edging and cleanup after. This is the difference between an okay job mowing and a clean beautiful yard that truly looks manicured. So I asked my hubby to help tutor me in the ways of lawn care. He had a lawn care business in college and worked for a service through high school, so he’s got skills!
The best part is that today we are going to teach you how to trim and edge your lawn like a pro. It’s really rewarding to step back and see your yard with a new clean cut.
4-Step Lawn Care Routine for a Professional Result
So when trying to get a professional-looking mow there are four general steps:
Edge along the concrete, brick surfaces, where the grass would start to creep over horizontally or garden bed and tree ring edges.
Mow and bag the grass.
Trim the extra tall grass along the edges of things, that the mower couldn’t get.
Blow off any loose dirt or grass clippings back onto the grass, from the mower, trimmer and edger.
I think that trimming and edging especially are two of the best ways to really make your lawn look awesome. If you only mow there is a very noticeable difference in the look. It just looks unfinished. So today we are giving you the tips and tools to make your lawn look top-notch all summer (and spring and fall).
Here is a list of tools that we will be using today — you can find your local Stihl dealer here.
We did get one gas powered tool, the edger, and boy is it fabulous, but I have to admit the ease of the battery powered tools with the STIHL Lightning Battery System® has me so happy! Before, I would always need to ask Justin to help me get the tools started, but now it is just plain easy! And I don’t need any help to get things started, or know what I am doing (this problem may have been more of a willful ignorance: “If I don’t know how to start it I can’t be expected to do it!” But now that I want to actually do the work I am more invested in learning how to do it and actually excited about the work!)
So let’s begin with some tips, shall we?
9 Trimming Tips for Manicured Lawn
Trimming gives your lawn a nice clean look, like just after getting a new haircut. Think of mowing the yard without trimming as a mullet… but it is 2018 and the 80’s called and they want their hairstyles back… so give that lawn a trim!
Tip #1: Wear safety glasses.
Always wear safety glasses when trimming. A friend used my trimmer once and I told him to be sure to wear safety glasses. He said “I’m fine! I don’t need safety glasses. I will be okay.” When he returned the trimmer he said, “I should have worn the safety glasses because a rock flew up and hit me in the eye.” Just protect your eyes and wear the glasses. You will thank me later.
Tip #2: Mow the lawn first.
When trimming and edging I like to do it after I have mowed the lawn first. The lawn mower will get the bulk of the grass, and also give you a reference point for the height the grass should be cut to. However, there are areas the mower can’t get like the trimmer can, such as under shrubs, around play equipment or trees, and up against the fence or walls.
Tip #3: Hold the trimmer level with the grass.
I am right-handed so I hold the trimmer trigger with my right hand and tend to walk to the right as I trim around the yard. Hold the trimmer level to the grass so you won’t cut too deeply into the grass and create low spots. This is where mowing first comes in really handy because you can level your trimmer with the cut grass. This will also help to avoid over cutting the grass and creating dried up dead spots on the edges.
Tip #4: Trim the grass so it discharges cut grass back onto the grass.
Save yourself some clean-up time and try to keep the grass clippings from creating a bigger mess to clean up later. Trim the grass in a way that the clippings end up back on the grass. This will mostly matter when you are trimming around hardscape, but just configure the guard cover to point onto the grass.
Tip #5: Work slow and steady.
Especially around trees and plants, keep your work slow and steady for an even result and for the safety of the rest of your landscaping. Don’t cut into the bark of plants or trees, as this may introduce disease or bugs into the tree and can ultimately kill or weaken your trees. It’s best to create a tree ring of mulch at least 12-15″ away from the tree bark to protect the trees.
Tip #6: Tap the trimmer on the ground to extend the nylon string.
Depending on your type of trimmer, you can just tap it on the ground to extend the feed when it gets too short.
Tip #7: Plan your way around the yard.
To help save time and make sure all the edges get trimmed, I start trimming where I want to end up, so I end up where I started. Start trimming like you are tracing the outline around the lawn. If you pass a tree or island/planter bed that needs trimming, walk over to it and trim around that, then walk back to where you left off at the edge. By doing this you are more efficient with your time and able to get things done a lot faster. This method will also help ensure you don’t miss any spots. So when we trim our yard, we start in the front yard, go around the house, through the gate to the back yard, finish the backyard, then come back through the same gate into the front yard to finish the front yard.
Tip #8: Trim the cracks that are full of weeds or unwanted grass.
In between the concrete cracks, you might get weeds growing through the cracks. Just trim them out at a slight angle as close to the concrete as possible. After the trimming you can pour straight (and super cheap) vinegar as a weed killer to prevent them from growing back. This is an organic, cheap and easily available weed killer, and you can even have the kids help with this part if you want.
Tip #9: Keep a safe distance
Be sure to keep your feet and hands away from the string at all times. Keep a safe distance away from other people at about 50’ or more. Be really careful around windows and vehicles.
10 Tips and Uses for your Edger
After first mowing, and then trimming now it is time to edge with an edger. An edger is more for cutting the grass vertically along the edges of the patios, paths, curbs, sidewalks or driveways. This part of lawn care really make a difference in the final look of the cut grass. This is something that you can do every other week if you wanted to save a little time. If you don’t do it at all, the grass ends up growing out and over the hard surfaces and can be harder to find the edge in the future. In fact sometimes the grass will begin to grow on the hard surfaces and debris builds up on edges creates a solid bed on the concrete.
Tip #1: Wear safety glasses.
Always wear safety glasses. The edger will spin the blade at a really fast rate. This kicks up a lot of dirt and rocks. There is a guard, but still, I would rather be safe than sorry!
Tip #2: Align the edger next to the hard surface.
Align the cutting blade of the edger with the edge of the grass. Pull the trigger and the blade will start spinning. Start with the blade spinning in the grass at the edge of the concrete or hard surface. You will feel the blade cutting through the dirt. As it’s spinning, you can let it hit the edge of the hard surface you are edging against. Adjust the trimmer up or down depending on how deep you want to to edge. Typically I edge about ½” to an 1” deep. Stand on the left and start walking forward along the edge. Remember, that after time the edger blade will need to be replaced from wear. You might be able to use one blade all season depending on how often you edge and the size of your yard.
Tip #3: Move the edger back and forth.
As you edge, move the edger back and forth to get a nice clean cut. Especially if it’s the first time or at the beginning of the season, be aware that your first edging of the season may require a bit more cleanup then you will usually have. It is best to take care of this early in the season, and then upkeep on the edges will become easier and easier as the season progresses.
Tip #4: Edge often.
The more often you edge the lawn, the easier it is to do and the faster the job goes. Most of the time you can edge every other time you mow, but if you are consistent you can avoid having to “start over” with a prolific edge of grass.
Tip #5: Adjust the depth of the cut
Cut down at least ½” past the edge of the surface you are trimming. Depending on your type of edger, you can adjust the depth of the cut. As you use the edger the blade will get worn and get smaller, so you will have to adjust the depth.
Tip #6: Edge first.
This may actually sound like we are going against everything we’ve talked about, but edging BEFORE mowing may actually save you some time. By edging first, you will be able to use the mower to help clean up the cut grass and extra dirt. It will make the end cleanup a breeze!
Tip #7: Edge around trees to create tree rings.
If you don’t have tree rings, you can easily create one with an edger. Just draw a ring around the tree at least 12” from the tree trunk with landscape paint (optional) then use an edger to cut along the line. Dig out all the grass in the ring and fill it with mulch. This will keep your tree a safe distance from the trimmer or edger and prevent any damage to the tree bark.
Tip #8: Edge around planter beds.
Use an edger to define the planter bed edge from the grass. You do not need to install a hardscape edging system to keep your beds looking beautiful. Remove any unwanted grass and keep edging each week to keep it nice and clean.
Tip #9: Use the proper fuel to oil ratio.
This is especially important to extend the life of your gas-powered engines. Fill the tank with the proper fuel. This Stihl model that we are using uses a gas oil mix of 50:1. We purchased the fuel at the hardware store because it has the proper mixture and a long shelf life. Also, be aware that gas you buy at the gas station contains ethanol that will junk up your equipment; the proper fuel mixtures at the hardware store are ethanol free. You will have fewer maintenance issues down the road if you use the right fuel every time.
Tip #10: Blow off the dirt and grass clippings.
Now that everything is done, all you have to do is blow all the dirt and grass clippings back onto the lawn and you done. Be careful to specifically clean off that brand new edge. If you blow things into the edges of the grass that sit against hard surfaces, that is where you will get the build up of soil and debris that allows the grass to grow onto the surface!
Now you can enjoy the beautiful clean look of your yard.
By the way, the blower is a totally awesome alternative to palm leaves for being fanned when you are done!
I’d like to thank Stihl for not only partnering with me on this post but for being part of my family since I was a child! We truly love this company! My dad was a chainsaw woodcarver growing up… and just check out this family picture all donning our orange Stihl shirts…(I’m the youngest on the end!!)