If your backyard is more jungle than suburban oasis, check out these 10 tips for cutting tall grass with a weed eater. I put them together after two months of heavy rain and an overseas vacation turned my well-manicured lawn into a wilderness of thigh-high grass and creeping thistles. I know I’m not the only one to have this problem so I hope these tips can help others tame their tall grass.
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How To Cut Tall Grass With A Weed Eater
Grass that’s approaching the knees or above knee height is difficult to cut with a regular lawnmower. You need a string trimmer, also known as a weed eater, that’s lightweight enough to be held above the ground. With its handle resting comfortably by your hip, swing the weed eater’s cutting head from side to side like a scythe.
The right way to use a weed eater is slowly and carefully. It can be a time-consuming process, particularly if the overgrown area is large or has variable terrain, but it’s worth it for healthy grass that bounces back. Cut in sections while taking slow steps forward. Overlap your strokes to ensure even lengths.
Why You Need A Weed Eater For Tall Grass
I’ve noticed lots of people use weed eaters for edging and tapering but get a mower out for overgrown grass. And after seeing neighbors struggle with heavy lawnmowers in waist-high weeds, I realized not everybody knows how versatile weed whackers can be. They provide an easy way to reduce the length of tall grass to get it to a suitable height for mowing.
A lawnmower will sputter, choke and get clogged with grass very quickly. Plus, it’s almost impossible to push a mower through long grass on an incline. With a weed eater, you’re not touching the ground, you’re just scything through the top of the grass, so there’s less risk of stones and debris getting caught in the head.
Until I learned how to cut tall grass with a weed eater, the small slopes in my yard looked ragged. I couldn’t push a mower across them evenly, so I was left with tufty patches that frustrated me when I spent time outdoors. If you’re a perfectionist like me, I hope to show you some clever ways to stop this from happening in your yard.
10 Tips For Cutting Tall Grass With A Weed Eater
1. Use The Right Type Of Weed Eater
Just like lawnmowers, weed eaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. All are lightweight enough to carry and swing above the ground, but some are heavier and bulkier than others.
Battery-powered tools are highly compact but their reliance on charging makes them less suitable for large gardens and public spaces like parks or highway verges. Gas-powered weed eaters are heavier but come with fewer limitations.
You could also use a battery powered weed eater or an electric weed eater, but the cord will affect maneuverability. These are best used in small yards.
2. Attach The Right Type Of Strimmer Line
Though it’s possible to attach blades to a weed eater, the technical definition is a gardening device with a cutting string. The head spins so fast that it holds the string firm at a stiff, horizontal angle turning it into an effective slicer. The thicker the string, the easier it will cut through tall grass and tough weeds.
For very long, overgrown grass, I recommend a string in the 0.085’’ to 0.110’’ range. For extremely heavy-duty jobs, you could use something thicker. This will increase durability but reduce speed (and runtime for battery powered weed eaters) as more thickness means more wind resistance. Don’t use chunky strings with lightweight, low voltage devices.
3. Remove Debris From The Yard
Weed eaters are not designed to cut close to the ground like a lawnmower and this makes them much less likely to get jammed with stones and other debris. Even so, I strongly recommend you check tall grass for things like branches, toys and garden furniture before cutting.
Weed eaters are powerful and, even if they can’t cut through an object, they will damage it. Clear the space of debris. Make sure children and pets are a safe distance away.
4. Wear Pants and Long Sleeves
I’ve been hit in the arms with debris while cutting tall grass with my weed eater and, I can tell you, it hurts. Even tiny objects sting when they collide with your skin at high speed. Save yourself the bruises and wear pants and long sleeves. Closed-toe shoes are essential.
The correct technique is to swing across the top section of the grass. However, when it’s long and wild, it’s easier than you think to lose track of the cutting head and dip too low. The last thing you want is a trimmer landing on your bare toes.
Ideally, you should wear safety glasses as well to stop flying debris from hitting your eyes.
5. Hold The Weed Eater Correctly
When you’re ready to start, hold the weed eater with its handle resting against your hip. This should give your arms extra support as you swing.
Find the height you want to cut at and maintain it for a neat, even trim. If your grass is very tall, start a little higher. When optimum height requires you to bend your back, it’s better to cut higher and make a second lower pass once you’ve already removed a lot of material.
I recommend starting at a height of 8’’ to 10’’ above the ground in extremely tall, overgrown areas. Try to hold the weed eater at this height throughout but don’t worry if you dip or rise a little. You can go back and tidy things up on a second or third pass.
6. Swing In Smooth, Circular Movements
Swing the head of the weed eater from side to side in a smooth arc that starts at one leg and moves towards the other. The best comparison is with a scythe. You shouldn’t have to push overly hard. Just sweep the head across the top of the grass while taking careful steps forwards.
Where possible, maintain the height and level of the cutting head throughout each swing. If your swings aren’t uniform, just go back and tidy them up later.
This first step is all about removing material so you can return the grass to a manageable length.
7. Work In Small Sections
Even heavy-duty weed eaters can get tangled up in tall grass so take things slow. Tackle sections of grass and, every 10 to 15 minutes, stop to check the condition of the cutting head.
Turn off the power and manually remove clogs and debris if the weed eater’s head is getting jammed up with material. This is really common, and it doesn’t mean your device isn’t performing efficiently.
Always turn off the power before touching the head. There may not be any blades, but a spinning wire can cause nasty injuries.
8. Overlap Your Cutting Strokes
Because you’re moving between small sections, there will be height variations across the space. You can even things up while you’re cutting, and saving yourself some work later, by overlapping your strokes.
As you move forward, slightly overlap the strokes to ensure all the grass is cut to the same length. At the end of a section, turn and start a second parallel to the first but slightly overlapping its edges.
If you do this until the entire space has been trimmed, you’re more likely to finish with uniform grass. Weed eaters are great even on slanted or bent grass. You shouldn’t have any issues trimming spots left leaning by strong winds or heavy-footed pets.
9. Trim Borders and Edges At 90-Degrees
The easiest way to trim sharp edges like sidewalks, verges, plant beds and borders is to carefully turn the weed eater to a 90-degree angle from the ground. Always ensure the safety shield faces toward you so that debris gets deflected away from your face.
Lower the head so that the string just kisses the ground enough to trim a clean edge.
10. Take Regular Breaks
If you’re cutting long grass in a small garden, you can probably get it done without taking breaks. Yards with variable terrain and features such as slopes, paths and rocky patches may take longer and require more muscle power.
Weed eaters can be noisy and produce a lot of vibrations so don’t forget to check in with yourself at regular intervals.
If your back is screaming, your knees are in pieces and your arms are on fire, take a break. Using a weed eater isn’t like pushing a lawnmower. You need to hold the device high off the ground and this can be tiring.
Taking a break is a better alternative to losing control and dropping a cutting head on your foot.
Helpful Tips To Cut Tall Grass With A Weed Eater
There’s a lot to be said for doing what feels comfortable for you so mix things up and try different techniques if you’re comfortable with gardening tools.
If you’ve never used a weed eater to cut tall grass before, I recommend sticking with my tips for optimum safety and efficiency. These are the things I think are most important:
- Use the right type of weed eater and trimmer line for your grass
- Protect your legs, arms and face from flying debris
- Cut in wide arcs while taking small steps forward
- Trim in sections and inspect the cutting head regularly
I haven’t covered weed eater maintenance in much detail in this article but don’t forget to replace the string when it starts to wear. The manufacturer’s instructions will tell you how to attach a new trimmer line. Worn or abraded strings will steadily reduce the weed eater’s efficiency and power.
I also recommend you give your grass a heavy-duty watering once you’re done trimming and then leave it to rest for a week or two. This will help it recover from the stress of the trim and grow back strong, healthy and resilient.