Gardening is a hobby that can be accomplished in many different ways. The larger the yard, the more equipment you need. While there may be a few gardeners still using a mule-pulled plow, most of us have opted for power tools. Today, there are myriad choices for garden power tools, from gasoline-powered to tools using rechargeable batteries and electric cords.
Which do you choose?
Gas-powered tools definitely have the most power and are the longest lasting — as long as the tank is full of gas. But you do need to always have gas on hand and know which tool needs plain gas and which need gas mixed with oil.
Then you need to make sure you add the right product to the right machine. Putting in the wrong mix can ruin a motor — I know from experience.
Battery-operated tools are gaining in popularity, and many major brands' batteries are interchangeable among a wealth of machines. The size of the tool will dictate the size of the battery.
Corded electric tools can be powerful and might last forever, but they are limited by the length of your extension cord. You also run the risk of cutting into the cord while you are using them, which also puts things on hold.
When making a decision, you also need to determine who will be using the tools. Many of the larger gasoline-powered tools could be too heavy for women or older adults.
In my household, I do almost 100% of the garden maintenance, so I look for ease of use — both in weight and how easy they are to start. Pulling string cords has left me frustrated one too many
times. These days, I select battery-powered, lightweight and either key-start or push-start equipment. Buying multiple tools from the same brand also gives me all those interchangeable batteries to use in whichever machine I want for the job I am doing that day. If one battery runs down before the job is complete, I put in another.
MOW THAT LAWN
The main power tool in any household is a lawnmower.
There are riding mowers and push mowers. How large your yard is will help in determining whether you walk or ride.
For walking, there are self-powered push mowers and self-propelled mowers, which help with steep yards. Again, you have gas as well as battery-operated machines, with a few electric-corded ones still available.
Electric corded mowers are not commonly used and are only practical for very small yards. Care must also be given to avoid running over the cord.
So, the two main choices are gas or battery. Gas-powered lawnmowers are cheaper and run for a longer time than battery-powered machines.
The new battery-powered lawnmowers cut as efficiently as gas-powered, but are usually limited to a 30- to 45-minute run time, which limits them to yards that are one-third of an acre or smaller. You can buy multiple batteries if your yard is larger, but batteries aren't cheap.
Many of the new battery machines fold up for ease of storage in between mowing.
Weed whackers or string trimmers (which many simply call Weed Eaters, although that is a brand much like "Coke" is to "soda") also come in all three forms.
Gas-powered machines are the most powerful but are usually heavy, and some require you to pull a cord to start.
Battery-operated machines come in several sizes. The lighter-weight versions are the easiest to use but will not cut through heavy brush. They work fine in edging a yard and in cutting herbaceous weeds, but woody weeds will be more of a challenge.
There are different sizes of batteries — 18- or 20-volt and 40-volt. The tools that use 18- or 20-volt batteries are the lightest weight, while the 40-volt tools will be more heavy-duty.
The weight of electric corded trimming tools varies with the size of the machine, but they do tend to be more powerful than the small battery-operated ones. If you have a large yard, corded models are not very realistic. Electric corded machines are definitely losing ground to the rechargeable-battery ones.
Overall, if you have a large yard that requires a lot of weeding, gas-powered trimmers are the best choice for the job, but they might not be manageable for all gardeners.
The third most popular lawn power tool is a blower. Blowers are heard all over the place in the fall. They do make the job of leaf removal easier, but many gardeners use a blower on a weekly basis to clean up debris from mowing the lawn or just to tidy up the yard.
Weight and power are quite variable in this category. From backpack blowers to hand-held, there are plenty of options in gas, electric or battery rechargeable.
When choosing a blower, consider what its main job will be. Many gardeners have two blowers — a handheld, rechargeable, lightweight version for weekly touch-ups and a more powerful, backpack, gas-powered one for heavy-duty fall leaf pickup.
Backpack models are more powerful but are much heavier. But putting it on your back can distribute the weight more easily and that's helpful if you will be using it for a long period of time.
There are also blowers that will vacuum up the leaves and mulch them.
Gas blowers are definitely more powerful than battery-
powered and electric blowers, but they can be much heavier, and most require the pulling of a starter cord. They also require more maintenance.
Do your homework to find the right tool for your yard and your abilities. Each year, new tools are on the market with better performance and plenty of bells and whistles. In addition to mowers, weed whackers and blowers, there are a whole slew of gas, battery rechargeable or electric-corded hedge trimmers, pole pruners, tillers, lawn edgers, sprayers and more.
In addition to weight and ease of use, gas-powered equipment needs more maintenance than electric or battery-powered versions and that's a consideration. Gas-powered equipment is also louder and does give off smoke and pollutants.
Electric and battery rechargeable are much more energy-efficient, but batteries have a limited run time. If you buy all your tools from the same brand — and you select a brand with interchangeable batteries — run-times are not a problem.
And finally, basic gas-powered tools will usually be cheaper than battery-powered versions or those with bells and whistles like self-propulsion.
Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.