Gardening Articles :: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers :: National Gardening Association

Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

The New Yard Trimmers (page 2 of 3)

by Dan Hickey

Why Buy a Convertible Trimmer?

How do you go about deciding if a convertible trimmer is right for you? Think about the gardening chores you do most often. For example, if you need a cultivator for frequent and heavy use, invest in a dedicated mini-tiller. But if you're looking for a trimmer and use a tiller only three or four times a year for light cultivating, consider a convertible trimmer with a cultivator attachment. Likewise, if you do occasional pruning, edging, brush cutting, or blowing, why pay for and maintain three or four similar engines to accomplish occasional tasks?

The convertible trimmers probably work better at some jobs than at others. Let's face it: String trimmers are designed to make a particular task easy. Maneuvering some of the heavier attachments can become awkward during demanding chores. Remember, you're holding the engine weight with your arms, but you have to push the tiller tines or snowthrower blades into the soil and snow. The attachments require a little more effort but cost much less than several dedicated tools for either of these jobs.

Another point to consider is that the tools work differently than dedicated units. For example, Homelite's cultivator attachment will cut sod, dig holes, maintain edges. It can also mix fertilizer, mulch, or compost into the soil. Although it can't outperform a good mini-tiller, it's certainly a more versatile tool.

You've got to give companies like Ryobi and Homelite credit for stretching our imaginations with a variety of attachments. Who would have thought a trimmer engine could power a small snow-thrower? During the winter, I cleared more than 6 inches of snow from a narrow path with Ryobi's Trimmer Plus.

Engine Options

Several trimmer manufacturers offer a choice of engine options. If the trimmer you want comes in a range of engine sizes, consider how much work you expect to accomplish with the attachments. Go with the powerful engines for tough jobs, such as cultivating soil or throwing snow. Ryobi's Trimmer Plus series, for example, includes 4-stroke,

2-stroke, and electric versions. The new 4-stroke engine meets California's environmental regulatory requirements. They're quiet and powerful and don't require a gas-oil mix. It can't, however, run when turned upside-down or rotated sideways. Currently, Honda is the only manufacturer to offer a trimmer-sized 4-stroke engine that can operate at 360-degrees.

This year, several manufacturers will introduce new 4-stroke trimmer-sized engines, as well as 2-stroke engines with catalytic converters, such as Husqvarna's E-tech 2-stroke. Ryobi's new 4-stroke will rotate 360-degrees. We also expect a new environtmentally friendly trimmer engine from Homelite this year.


Convertible trimmers vary considerably in price. That's because originally many versatile trimmers were intended only for professional use, but some manufacturers have since introduced them to the consumer market. For example, the Homelite and Ryobi trimmer lines were built with homeowners in mind, a fact reflected in their pricing. Other models, such as Maruyama and Shindaiwa, are professional-caliber tools.

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