There are few parts of a well-kept lawn that cause quite as much frustration to keen gardeners as the edges. Often a lawnmower is too bulky to trim the edges of the grass, and if your garden ends in a flowerbed or rockery, you risk damaging your flowers, your lawnmower, or both.
But the solution is simple: a garden strimmer. Often known simply as strimmers, or line trimmers if you’re in America, these handheld devices take the form of a shaft with a set of blades at the end which can be used to chop down errant patches of grass.
If your garden is in need of serious landscaping, a strimmer might be a necessary first step before you get out the mower. “If the grass is longer than your lawnmower can handle, the strimmer can take down that long grass and then you can go over it with the mower afterwards,” explains James Broadhouse, a professional landscaper and influencer known by his moniker, Jimmy The Mower.
If you’ve got something a bit tougher than grass, like a big bramble patch, a strimmer might also be helpful for doing a job the lawn mower can’t manage.
To track down the best garden strimmers out there, I called upon the expertise of Broadhouse and the buying team at Dobbies garden centres to collate a list of the top five products for every situation. Here's what I found, starting with the best...
1. Stihl Cordless Line Trimmer FSA 45
What we like about it: A solid all-rounder that should suit most standard gardens
A really solid all-rounder, well suited to most normal sized gardens, the FSA 45 balances price with functionality.
It packs a decently sized 18V lithium battery which is powerful enough to swipe away even tougher weeds. That battery also means that it’s a heck of a lot quieter than traditional corded trimmers or the petrol-powered professional models. It can be recharged quickly and easily.
The shaft length is 110cm, but you can adjust it by 17cm to suit jobs. The head of the trimmer is also adjustable which means people of all heights should be able to use it easily and you can rotate it 90 degrees to turn it from a strimmer into a specialised edge tool.
However, arguably the key point to make about the FSA 45 is that it’s incredibly light for a trimmer of this size. At just 2.3kg it should suit most most gardeners, even when using for extended periods.
Add to that easily 'swappable' plastic blades, a special key which prevents it from turning on accidentally while you’re getting it out of the shed, and a spacer bracket to prevent damage to flower beds or trees, and you’re onto a winner with this one.
2. Greenworks 24V Cordless Line Trimmer
What we like about it: It offers a huge amount of functionality for the price
Frankly, Greenworks 24V line trimmer could very easily have come in top place on this list. Almost all of what I’ve written about the Stihl FSA 45 holds true here: a solid battery, quiet running, rotating head, telescopic shaft, and even a spacer bracket.
And there are a few benefits too. Price is certainly one, but you’ve also got a more powerful electric motor, a 25cm cutting width compared to the 23cm on the FSA 45, and that battery can be swapped out and used in all other 24V Greenworks products; handy if you’ve got a hedge trimmer or mower which uses the same battery saving you having to recharge three different batteries.
As you might have sensed, there is a ‘but’ coming. The problem is the weight. At 4.4kg this one is noticeably heavier than comparable products so it won’t be ideal for all gardeners. Still, if you’re a strapping person with plenty of muscles from lugging all those plant pots and bags of fertiliser around, the benefits will probably outweigh the negatives, if you’ll pardon the pun.
3. Webb 250w Classic Electric Grass Trimmer
What we like about it: The price
The Webb 250W Classic is definitely at the budget end of the market for grass trimmers, and as you’d expect it comes with some drawbacks. However, for those with just a small lawn who only need to trim around the edges, it’s a more than adequate option.
Weighing in at just 1.3kg it’s a fair bit lighter than most grass trimmers so it should be easily manageable for all gardeners. It’s also got a decent 23cm cutting width which is roughly on par with some of the bigger brands. On top of that, you also get a flower guard to protect your prized begonias if you’re using it around the flower bed.
As for the aforementioned downsides, the first is the size of the motor. As you might expect at this price, you’re not getting anything particularly powerful so this one really is just for grass edges; forget about doing brambles or anything like that. The other thing is that it has no battery so you’ll be somewhat limited by the 10 metre mains cord.
Still, for smaller gardens which require less specialised equipment it’ll do the job and given that it costs less than half of the next most expensive one, it’s a bargain in anyone’s book.
4. Bosch UniversalGrassCut
“Bosch is really reliable as home-owner stuff goes,” says Broadhouse. “They kind of copy what the really high-end stuff does just with a smaller 18V battery.”
Frankly, I could largely write the same review of this one as I did the Greenworks option. There are a smattering of differences (26cm cutting width, a slightly less powerful battery, an ever so slightly more adjustable shaft on this one) but it’s mostly like-for-like in terms of functionality.
However, there are two areas where the Bosch comes out on top: firstly it’s a lot lighter at 2.7kg and secondly the design of the shaft: instead of just a straight shaft, Bosch have fitted a V-shaped handle with two places to hold. This ensures that you keep your back straight when using it and more evenly distributes the weight making it more comfortable to use. Given the amount of people who put their backs out while gardening, this seems a decidedly useful feature.
But that great feature is also the UniversalGrassCut’s greatest downfall. Why? Well, it’s only really usable for right-handers. At the very least, it’ll take some effort for lefties to get used to this one, which isn’t really ideal.
Another thing I’ve noted from a lot of online commentary around this one is that Bosch have frustrated a number of gardeners for failing to support their own product lines when it comes to replacements, or compatible batteries. That might be something to watch out for.
5. Webb 43cc Cow Horn Handle Brushcutter
So far on this list we’ve really only covered the trimmers designed for your garden lawn and doing the edges. But what about if you have a long driveway, or you need to tackle a really rather large and rather overgrown field?
In those situations you’ll need something a bit more professional and heavy-duty and this is where we talk about petrol-powered trimmers. First, let’s get the downsides out of the way. Petrol trimmers are heavier, louder, more expensive to run, and blast out fumes as you’re working. Not ideal for a suburban lawn, then.
The trade-off, though, is that you get a lot more power so weeds like thick brambles don’t stand a chance. They’ll also cover more ground so you won’t have to keep recharging if you have a big garden.
The best heavy duty trimmer I’ve been recommended is this one from Webb. It actually comes at a reasonably wallet-friendly price compared to similar products but comes with plenty of handy features. The 7.7kg weight is offset by a harness the user wears to distribute the weight across the shoulders, helping you go on strimming for longer. Its cow-horn shape handles also make it easier to control and more comfortable to use.
It won’t be for everyone, but for those who need a bit more power, this is a great place to start.
Frequently asked questions about garden strimmers
Are strimmers with plastic blades any good?
Short answer: yes. The vast majority of strimmers designed for domestic use have plastic blades and they work fine. They make the strimmer lighter and they’re also cheaper to replace. The downside is they’re also slightly more prone to breaking if you go over a stone or hit a tree or something, but if you’re just doing the edges of your lawn, they’ll be fine.
What should I look for when buying grass trimmers?
“You need to look at the application you’ll be using it for whether it’s domestic, large domestic, or commercial,” says Broadhouse. “Most home-owners probably shouldn’t be looking at a petrol one. You’ll have to look after and store fuel, and a can of petrol is only really fresh for a couple of months if that. If you haven’t used it all it just goes to waste. That’s a big consideration.
“It’s difficult with a domestic situation because you can pick one that’s super comfortable but you’ll probably only be using it for a maximum of 10-15 minutes once a week or once a fortnight so there’s a lot to consider when you’re looking at these things really.”
On top of that, you should consider whether your garden is too long for a corded device to be practical. You can also have a look at interchangeable heads for different kinds of mowing, and most will display their noise and vibration output which help narrow down your decision making. Weight is also a key factor, so it’s worth going down to your local garden centre to test a few and get a feel for what you’ll be able to manage.
How do you stop a strimmer line from breaking?
All of the products recommended above automatically control the strimmer line so all being well, you shouldn’t need to worry about the strimmer line breaking. However, the simplest thing to do is to just make sure your product is clean. Cuttings and debris can get into unclean line feeders which can cause the strimmer line to break. If that happens, you’ll need to replace it. In the video below, Broadhouse explains how it’s done.
Is a straight or curved shaft trimmer better?
In short, it depends what you’re going to do with it, says Broadhouse. “Curved shafts will be more light-weight and compact which makes them good for intricate work around flower beds etc.
“A straight shaft is generally larger,” he continues.”You might have a double-shoulder harness for one of those to balance the machine they’re more for hard work or larger areas. You wouldn’t usually use a large straight shafted machine around your prized begonias, but you wouldn’t use a curved shaft one on a quarter-mile driveway.”