When a good time turns around, you must wack it
June 16, 2018 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I need a weed wacker. It must be able to handle invasive purple loosestrife. I'd prefer an electric one, but the only electric one I've used wasn't powerful enough for overgrown weeds, just the edges of lawns. What should I get?

My yard is wet and purple loosestrife loves it. I need to clear pathways down a few times a year but loathe the lawn mower (which disintegrated in my hands the last time I used it). There is also a lot of jewel weed, grass, and who knows what else. Probably about 3 feet high at this point. I'd let it all go wild for the pollinators but there are blueberries and a shed that I need access to. The Greenworks trimmer I've used wasn't powerful enough for overgrown grass/weeds and had issues with the string feeder. I can't remember what the voltage was.

Is there an electric string trimmer powerful enough to cut down the loosestrife, or do I need to go gas? What electric or gas trimmer is reliable? Is there another tool I don't know about that I should be using?
posted by Stapelia to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I've used this Black & Decker weed whacker/edger on my mish-mash postage stamp urban lawn for the past 2.5 years and it works great for me. Came with two chargable 20V batteries and has two settings. On low I can get about an hour out of one. On high, I can get 30 mins but it's powerful enough to knock down anything under ~0.5" thick. (that said, I have no experience with loosestrife)
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:19 PM on June 16, 2018

Honestly if you want to avoid combustion engines (very reasonable!), I don’t think electric is the way to go for this caliber of brush. I think you want a scythe for that. You can get decent ones for under $50, and you will also get a great core workout, the kind lots of people pay money to get. In many situations it will be faster than a gas-powered trimmer too.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:21 PM on June 16, 2018

I have a Stihl FSA90 electric trimmer which was designed to compete with professional-grade gas string trimmers. It’s a good machine but trimmer, battery and charger are sold separately and all are expensive. I got mine as a deeply discounted floor model and it still was pricey.

I’m not familiar with purple loostrife, though. Some of what I’m seeing online suggests the stems get woody, in which case any string trimmer would struggle. I’ve never used a scythe, but it might be a better choice. They also make saw blades to fit some trimmers in lieu of the string head.
posted by jon1270 at 6:44 PM on June 16, 2018

Should you elect to go with a gas trimmer, I'd suggest going for the expensive, pre-mixed gas they sell at the chainsaw store*. It bugs me to pay for fancy store-bought mix when I could make my own but the amount of time and money I've spent keeping two-strokes running has convinced me to buy the fancy. One service ticket buys a lot of gas.

*I live on the Puget Sound. They have those everywhere, right?
posted by stet at 9:02 PM on June 16, 2018

The cheap battery powered string trimmers will not make you happy. (I utterly despised the black and decker I once had) The good ones that have large lithium packs will work as well as a gas trimmer. Generally speaking if it comes with a saw blade attachment and looks/feels like that isn't completely ridiculous, it's a good one.

I found the same was true for gas powered ones back in the day, also, so it's a rule of thumb that has served me well so long as I actually observe it..
posted by wierdo at 10:18 PM on June 16, 2018

I am thinking that for the kind of work you want to do, you may actually want a brush cutter rather than a string trimmer. A brush cutter's metal blade will plow through masses of thicker stems that will shrug off the relatively puny whackings of a plastic string.

Greenworks doesn't make a brush cutter attachment, but one of the reviewers of this generic attachment says that it worked perfectly on their Greenworks 40-volt G-Max string trimmer. Perhaps that's your solution right there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:26 AM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Salty is right; a scythe would do what you want and never need charging or fuel-mixing. A ditch blade maybe for the heavier stuff. Cut in the am before stems dry out. I'll admit that I use a kitchen knife sharpener to put a quick hone on in the field.
posted by bullatony at 4:55 AM on June 17, 2018

I have a scythe and it is a lot harder to use than it looks. Make sure to stop and sharpen the blade every few minutes with a whetstone (I wear a little plastic “cup holder” half filled with water that the stone stays in).
posted by saucysault at 7:11 AM on June 17, 2018

I'm on my second season with an EGO string trimmer and it's awesome. It uses a thicker line than your basic Black & Decker and it makes quick work of overgrown weeds. All the EGO tools use the same battery mount, so if you end up buying a hedge trimmer or a blower you can swap batteries between them. A couple notes:

(1) they have a distribution deal with Home Depot that isn't exactly exclusive but does mean that if you need warranty service you have to take the unit to the Home Depot customer service counter, even if you bought it from, say, Amazon. If you hate Home Depot that might be a vote against. I don't love HD but I haven't needed any customer service, and the locations are certainly convenient.

(2) They sell the string trimmer in two versions and at least four battery capacities, and they also sell batteries and chargers as accessories. The version differences are whether the rod is one long piece ("straight shaft") or two sections you assemble ("split shaft"). There is no functional difference for home use, and the split shaft one is cheaper because it's cheaper for them to ship. My local Home Depot only had the split shaft one in stock, and the straight shaft one would have been a special order, so I have the split shaft model with 2.5AH battery and standard (slow) charger. I also have a hedge trimmer I bought in no-battery configuration, and I use the one battery for both.
posted by fedward at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2018

+1 for Ego. I also have their hedge trimmer, blower and their lawn mower; all are great, and the mower comes with a high-power charger that's pretty darn quick. Never going back to gas or even corded electric.
posted by aramaic at 3:01 PM on June 17, 2018

Golf course superintendent here:
Stihl makes a versatile trimmer called a HL 94 which is described as a lightweight long reach hedge trimmer. We've owned two over 18 years and they're fantastic for what you're describing and work well in the wet conditions you have to work in. They'll do everything a weed whip can do but will also get through heavier stalks and stems that weed whips won't. It's essentially a handheld sickle bar mower. Comes with a shoulder strap and articulating head to trim at any angle. Slick unit but spendy - $600-700. Worth it. Scythes are fun and a good work out too, but in wet conditions without a sharp edge they can be daunting. Good luck.
posted by greenskpr at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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