On the odd occasion that I’ve had to figure out how to cut grass without a lawn mower, the weed wacker has been my best friend. It’s not as convenient as a mower, which rolls nicely along the lawn, but a weed wacker/string trimmer is capable of doing a perfectly adequate job and can be used to tidy up small areas of lawn. Where they really come into their own is in very tight or narrow spaces where a mower would struggle to fit. They’re also great for cutting grass around awkwardly shaped parts of your yard.
How to Cut Grass with a Weed Wacker: Step By Step
There are a few things to be aware of before you start to cut grass with a weed wacker. And just to be clear, this will take a little bit of practice. It’s really nothing like cutting grass with a mower. It requires a bit more hand-eye coordination to get right.
Follow these steps to achieve the best possible results.
Scour the Area Before Starting
A weed wacker/weed eater/string trimmer (why do that have so many names?!) features a line typically made from monofilament nylon, that is rotated at extremely high speeds when you engage the engine or motor. And if there’s anything lying around on the surface of your lawn – sticks, rocks/stones, pine cones, etc – this line can flick these items in all manner of directions. And this can do some serious damage, particularly if there are breakable objects nearby, such as windows.
So before you grab hold of your weed wacker, have a quick walk around the area of grass that you’re going to cut and see if you can find anything that needs clearing. Remove anything that you find.
You’ll definitely want to wear some sort of eye protection. I usually wear my sunglasses, but you could also wear some safety glasses. The last thing you want is for the trimmer to be flicking up something into your eye.
Depending on the model of weed wacker that you have – gas will definitely be louder than electric – you might want to also consider wearing ear defenders too.
Check the Trimmer Line
Another quick check before you start is to check the state of the trimmer line. Does it need changing? Is it long enough? You’ll want to make sure that the length of the line is sufficient as this makes the job of cutting grass so much easier.
The Right Grip
You can now start up your trimmer. It’s important that once you have it running, you hold it correctly, as this will make it more comfortable (so you tire less quickly) and gives you a much better chance of an even cut. There are several different types of handles that you will find on trimmers, but most residential trimmers will have a handle near the back, and then a “ring” handle a bit further in front. You want to have the part you grip at the back pushed into your hip. You’ll then use the front handle to move the trimmer from side to side to cover a larger area on each pass.
Start with the Edges
I find it best to go around the edges of the area of grass that you’re cutting first. This isn’t 100% necessary – I think it’s a habit I’ve picked up from the period in my life when I was obsessed with trying to create great lawn stripes, and obviously you’re not going to create lawn stripes with a weed wacker. But I do think that lawn maintenance is most effective when there’s a logical, step-by-step process that is followed.
So start by going around the entire border of the lawn, carefully trimming the grass and this will “frame” the rest of your lawn, and it’ll be easy to see exactly where you still need to cut.
You might need a lawn edger to fully finish off the borders of your lawn, unless your weed wacker is a 2-in-1 unit that allows the trimmer head to rotate to 180 degrees.
The idea when cutting grass with a weed wacker isn’t to just charge around trying to do it as quickly as possible. Not if you want the grass to look presentable afterward. You want to swing the trimmer head gently from side to side, taking small half-steps and moving forward gradually.
This ensures that your trimmer doesn’t become overwhelmed and clog (this is the result of trying to cut too much grass, too fast), and the smooth cutting action ensures you get a nice clean, even cut.
Overlap Your Passes
This is very similar to what you do with a lawn mower. You need to slightly overlap your passes to make sure you get all of the “stragglers” so that all of the grass is cut. This is also why I suggest that you walk up and down your lawn in straight lines when cutting grass with a weed wacker, as it’s much easier to tell where you’ve already cut.
Clean Up the Clippings
The one bad thing about cutting grass with a trimmer? There’s no way to bag your clippings and they’re way too big to be considered mulch. So you’ll need to clear them up, as leaving a dense covering of clippings on your lawn can lead to lawn diseases.
A rake is your friend for this. Collect all of your clippings and dispose of them accordingly.
A Few Tips to Ensure Cutting Grass with a Trimmer is a Success
I want to make it clear that cutting grass with a trimmer is not a good idea in all situations, and there are definitely a few pieces of advice I’d share based on (limited) experience.
Be Very Careful About Cutting Too Short
Cutting grass too short is a bad idea. It can send the grass into shock, weaken its root system, increase its susceptibility to lawn disease, and allow weeds to gain a foothold in your lawn. A trimmer is not like a mower, whereby you have a lever system to control the cutting height. With a trimmer, YOU control the cutting height, and it’s definitely not easy to maintain it perfectly level right across a lawn.
So when cutting grass with a weed wacker, don’t cut it too low and scalp the lawn. If you get tired and are struggling to maintain it at a suitable height, take a break and come back later. It’s better to take a bit longer to finish cutting, than damage your lawn and have to deal with a whole raft of additional problems down the road.
Don’t Try to Cut Huge Areas
Trying to tackle a huge lawn with nothing more than a weed wacker is madness. You need a mower for that. And if it’s a very large lawn, you probably need a ride-on mower.
Weed wackers are great for clearing up small patches of grass. Maybe you have a small area near the pool or you live in the city and have a postage stamp yard. Those are scenarios in which cutting grass with a trimmer would be feasible, although I’d still personally prefer a mower due to comfort.