Landscaping that features clean edges is a sign of quality work and attention to detail. For the homeowner, a string trimmer flipped on its side may produce a good enough edge for their standards, but for the landscape contractor, a dedicated edger is the best solution for a clean line.
“While it varies by property owner, our feeling is that most people prefer a clean, crisp edge to their sidewalks, driveways, and patios,” says Jerry Morgan, product manager, ECHO Incorporated. “With sidewalks, grass will grow and often ‘creep’ over the edge of the sidewalk, which makes the width of that sidewalk smaller over time. Edging keeps the sidewalk’s usable surface at the width it was intended for.”
A lot of consumers just choose to use their trimmer line to edge. You get somewhat of the same effect, but it is not as crisp and clean as an edger. Lawn mowers make the grass look good and the edgers are the reason the property’s edges look crisp.
In the simplest terms, an edger is a manual or motorized (stick or walk-behind) tool that is used to create a defined boundary or edge between grass and pavement or pavement/non-grass. They are commonly used for locations where grass meets a sidewalk, curb, or driveway, although they can be used at any consistent boundary point.
As with many of the handheld outdoor power equipment tools, there is a difference between a commercial and homeowner model.
“Commercial-grade trimmers are aimed at the professional, with features & benefits that meet their needs,” Morgan says.
Durability, build and power enough to get the job done are key characteristics professionals consider. Shaft shape (curved or straight) on the handheld models is more an ergonomic preference.
“On commercial products, you'll notice visual differences as well as differences while in use,” says Husqvarna product manager Jack Easterly. “Although they get less runtime than a string trimmer in most regions, some properties do require long hours of edging, and the tool needs to be designed for that.”
For example, on Husqvarna commercial edgers (525ECS and 525ES), Easterly says there are extra guard plates on the gearbox to handle that commercial operation. “You want to look for a product that has been designed for commercial use with added protection where there's key points of contact and friction,” he says.
In addition to the gearbox, contractors should look for models with a high-quality shield and roller wheel, two areas that are constantly making contact with the ground and flying debris.
For power, Easterly says you want something that will not get bogged down with what you are edging. “Edging is running the motor at high speeds while hitting material constantly during operation,” he says. “It's not like a string trimmer, where you're just hitting grass, an edger is really tearing through dirt, rocks, hitting stationary objects and that is a very high impact on the gearbox and other parts of the tool.” As a result, gas-powered units are generally favored by the professionals in the commercial space due to the power, durability, and type of work.
For the contractor who is performing a service for their customer and wants to impress with a clean edge, there are multiple edger options to choose from including walk-behind (wheeled), handheld or stick edgers or multi-use tools with an edger attachment.
Walk-behind wheeled edgers
Walk-behind wheeled edgers were generally preferred for longer runs of edging, much larger properties and were generally higher-powered.
“Walk-behind wheeled edgers are older products,” Morgan says. “They are typically expensive and difficult to use.”
Morgan says the wheeled edgers are a rapidly declining category, currently being outsold by stick edgers by nearly a 2:1 margin.
However, when looking to first establish a clean edge or shape a landscape bed, a four-wheeled bed edger from Brown Manufacturing, E-Z Trench or Little Wonder is a good tool for the initial creation of a clean line.
“Usually, a lawn edger and sidewalk edger are terms used synonymously, commonly used for trimming the grass on hardscape borders to define the edge better and keep creeping grasses off the hardscape surface,” says Scotty Porter, E-Z Trench director of marketing. “There are 'lawn edgers' on the market that are used to define the natural edges of landscape flower beds.”
Porter says those machines are typically professional-grade products rather than something a homeowner is going to purchase. “They are constructed to be very durable and last for years of service,” he says.
Generally, those larger units, like the E-Z Trench Bedscaper BE400 are powered by 200cc gasoline engines and can have carbide cutting bits to dig through soils of various types, defining the turf and landscaping more than trimming grass.
In addition, Porter says these units can be used to pulverize grass and soil much like a tiller could and therefore create flower beds easily.
The four-wheeled bed edgers, such as the Bedscaper BE400 are ideal for edging around trees and flower beds. Contractors do purchase them, but they also have options to rent such units when it is not needed for everyday jobs. Relatively speaking, not as many of these units are sold, but dealers often have them available for purchase or rent.
Handheld stick edgers
Handheld or stick edger models are lightweight, easy to maneuver and appear to be the most utilized. With most brands, you will see two different types of handheld edgers, either a curved/offset shaft or straight shaft.
Morgan says the choice between curved or straight shaft usually comes down to user preference. For example, both ECHO’s PE-2620 (curved) and PE-2620S (straight) edgers continue to perform well.
“The straight shaft edger is usually about 1 in. longer, offers better maneuverability in small/tight spaces, and, according to most professionals, is easier to store in the trailer as it takes up less space,” he says.
Regardless of brand, the straight shaft edgers are generally more expensive due to the 90-degree angle at the gearbox. Taking cost and ease of use into consideration, it is not surprising that the curved or offset shaft edgers seem to be the most common.
“It's really an offset shaft, giving the user a little bit better visibility to what they're cutting versus a straight shaft,” Easterly says.
Whether straight or curved, it is important to keep your eye on the line. “It’s not just sidewalks, there can be pavers or other items you could chip and destroy immediately,” he says.
Some landscapers will just walk one-handed and go for a half-mile barely paying attention and just use the wheel to guide them. In some areas you need to be very careful around things like pavers or areas that are up near homes or the actual office building or wherever you are doing the work. Everyone uses their tools differently.
Easterly says another benefit of the handheld or stick edgers is storage. “Trailer real estate is a big deal,” he says. “Keeping space open and determining how much you can haul is important. Landscaping is a mobile operation and handheld edgers are much more versatile and storable than other models.”
Since stick edgers serve one purpose only, they are not always the best sellers. Some customers are looking for equipment that offers many uses in both landscape installation and maintenance solutions.
Many contractors and even homeowners are turning to multi-use tools. Power sources that accept different tool heads allow the user to buy different pieces as they fit into their landscape needs.
“We have a wide variety of multi-use tools including an edger,” Easterly said. “It's a great idea and offers great versatility and storability especially with trailer real estate in mind.”
For example, Husqvarna has a 16-product option with its detachable tool line and ECHO has 14 attachments to help companies handle nearly their landscaping and maintenance needs.
“We offer two size powerheads in this category a 21.2cc 225-series head which is designed for the homeowner, and the 25.4cc 2620-series head which is designed for the professional,” Morgan says. “These are perfect for companies that may do certain tasks (i.e., hedge trimming, edging, pruning, etc.) less often than their core tasks.”
Adoption of the use of multi-use tools with the edger attachment is increasing across both the homeowner and professional users.
Commercial cutters are usually the ones to purchase the units with various attachments. They want the versatility of having more options rather than having one complete unit where all it does is edge.
“With landscapers, we still find that the dedicated tools are the tool of choice,” Easterly says. However, he admits that there are some out there that are taking advantage of the multi-tool option. “For those commercial landscapers that do choose to go with detachment products, they see great benefits with storability and efficiencies,” he says.