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Maintaining Buffalo Lawn Edges
Dedicated Edger versus Brush Cutter. Which is best?
By Todd Layt
A big chunk of a landscape maintenance contractors and home owner’s time is spent on trimming lawn edges. Is a dedicated edger better than a brush cutter? We timed and tested both types of machines and try to answer that question. The results could save you time and money. Buffalo lawn edges are the best to edge. Certain plant and turf types can make maintaining those edges so much easier. Which hard edging materials are easy to maintain?
Tanka - dedicated edger
MEY - dedicated egder
Honda - brush cutter
I am still amazed how many contractors and home owners only use brush cutters to maintain edges, even spade type edges. Common sense would tell you a dedicated edging machine would be faster. So we experimented to see if this is true. Firstly we measured out a series of 8 meter long sections along an area of turf and garden without any hard edge. We tested Tanaka and MEY dedicated edging machines, then we tested an amazing new Honda brush cutter. We did the same on turf alongside concrete, and then around natural rocks, and finally along a Link Edge.
Along the area with no hard edging and along concrete edging, it was amazing how much faster the dedicated edger was. Over multiple tests, it took an average of 18 seconds to do the 8 meter section with the MEY edger, 20 seconds with the Tanaka, and 45 seconds with the brush cutter with a cord, and 50 seconds with a blade. So that means if you are using a brush cutter to maintain this type of edge, you are more than twice as slow. So why do so many keep using a brush cutter for these types of edges. The only answer I can think of is out of habit. If it was based on financials or time management, everyone would use dedicated edgers for less complex edges like these. Both the Tanaka and MEY machines were quicker if the edge had already been defined previously. Even to define the edge, the Tanaka and MEY edgers were much quicker than the brush cutter. The Tanaka took just 26 seconds and the MEY 25 seconds. Both did a good job. The Tanaka is lighter and easy to push on a defined edge, but the MEY machine could make deeper cuts and plowed through tough grass and made the initial edge a little easier. But both machines worked really well. I would recommend both of them. The Tanaka is probably easier to move from job to job, being lighter, but on hills, the extra weight made the MEY a good choice. The key here is that both machines are more than twice as fast as a brush cutter for spade type edges, or edges next to concrete and pavers. My suggestion is that every lawn mowing contractor or home owner on a large block should have a dedicated edger. With Buffalo turf for small areas a spade will do the job. Buffalo turf is really the only lawn you would try to maintain a spade edge with.
You will, however, still need a good brush cutter for many edging situations. For example, around rocks or other angular edges the brush cutter was much better. The dedicated edges simply did not work around these types of intricate edges. The bush cutter is also needed to trim vertical lawn growth near edges. The machine we tested was a Honda brush cutter. I have used Honda brush cutters for the last 5 years and have 2 different models. This new one is a big step up in quality and functionality. It felt great to use. The feeling is hard to explain, you just have to try it. It’s lighter, it’s still four stroke, it’s even quieter than the past models, and boy does it pack a punch. It had more power and trimmed better than my older model. So the verdict is every lawn mowing contractor should have a dedicated edger and a brush cutter in order to improve productivity. If you are a one man band or just maintaining your home, having the right tool will save you time and money, but if you are a larger company, having the right equipment will save wages easily enough to pay for a dedicated edger in a few months. Staff training is then essential to make sure that staff know which machine to use where.
If metal or aluminum edges like Link Edge are used, then the dedicated edgers did not work. Here you need a brush cutter, or even just a mower. The great thing about using link edge as a hard edge is that if you get the installation right, most of the edging is done with a mower. We had a gravel area on one side of the edge and turf on the other. If you get the level flush, that’s to say the edge, the turf and the gravel are all the same height exactly, we have kept an edge by simply mowing over the top, with the very occasional trim with a brush cutter and yearly squirt of roundup in a few spots. So if you have to install a hard edge, I must recommend Link Edge, provided the installation is done correctly. By just mowing over the top, you are saving a huge amount on maintenance. Link Edge is quick to install, and is a relatively cheap hard edge option. It looks modern and can save on maintenance. One thing I have learnt about using this product is that you need to choose the right version for your site. The standard one is OK for most situations; just make sure it is not sticking out of the ground too much when it’s installed. For areas that have possible vehicle traffic, it is essential to use the heavy duty version. Again, make sure it is flush with the ground, or vehicles may bend it. Installed correctly this product is fantastic.
Which Buffalo is best for less edging?
Palmetto (right) is slower growing,
making it easier to maintain edges
Choosing the right turf type can also save a lot of money on edging. Buffalo turf does not have rhizomes, so it is very easy to keep and edge without a hard edge or by just using a dedicated edging machine. The edger easily chops off the runners that grow above the ground. All Buffalo types are good for around gardens, although Palmetto does grow slower into the garden than all other popular Buffalo types, making it the best Buffalo for edging. Sapphire and Matilda are moderate edging Buffalo types. Kings Pride and Sir Walter are the fastest spreading, so unless you are happy to do more edging, the other types will probably suit you best.
Planting ideas to make edges easier to maintain
Another way to make defining an edge easy is to use border plants alongside a spade edge, then use Buffalo and use a dedicated edger regularly. Mondo Grass is one plant that works well particularly in shade. A lot of landscapers and home owners buy the Mondo in Instant Border Strips, which are basically 500mm long strips of Mondo. Silver-Edge is a new variegated Mondo that ads vibrancy to a border. Aranda is a new small Dianella that defines a border beautifully. Its compact foliage does not spread, and its low 200mm height makes it perfect for borders. It grows well in cold or hot humid regions. From Sydney south, Dianella Baby Bliss or Lomandra Savanna Blue make excellent blue foliage borders. If you want red type tones, for Sydney south use the only small growing Phormium called Sweet Mist, or in Queensland Rhoeo is a great choice if used correctly. All of these plants can have the grass sprayed out of it with Fusilade.
Maintaining turf edges on many sites can take as much time as mowing the lawns. So if I told you there is a way to halve the time taken to maintain some edges, is that of interest to you? The dedicated edging machine does this. More time can be saved using the right type of hard edge, and even more time can be saved by using the right turf and the right plants. Happy edging.