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For a variety of reasons (poor outdoor storage, limited outlets, etc...) I do not want to get a gas or electric weed whacker, so I started to think of other options for maintaining the parts of my lawn that would normally call for a weed-whacker.

Presumably there was a need to whack weeds where a mower couldn't reach before the weed whacker was invented. What tool (or tools) fulfilled this purpose and are they still available?

(Note: a cordless electric weed-whacker is probably really my best option but I am curious as to other options out there)

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

We own a tool that looks just like the one on the right here:

hand tools for brush

I used it just last week - it's good for goldenrod, raspberries, oregano and the like. After a round with this the mower can handle it. Instructions for using it are at the American Trails site, among other places. We own a gas powered trimmer, but this is actually quicker (and lighter and quieter) when you want to do a fairly wide swath of clearing and you're not trying to be precise. As for sharpening, we've had it for over 20 years and have never sharpened it. One side is now easier to use than the other, so I'll think about sharpening it, but I really don't know how. I'm ambidextrous so I just give preference to the better side.

For precise work, like the edges of paths, we use the oversize scissors pictured in the other answer, or the aforementioned gas trimmer if things are really getting so overgrown that it's worth getting it out. We also pull up goldenrod, ragweed, and small pine trees by hand when we happen to be walking nearby.

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In some parts of the U.S. the one pictured at right is known as an "idiot stick." – JYelton Sep 4 '12 at 18:15
just picked up one of these - looks like just what I am looking for. – KennyPeanuts Sep 5 '12 at 19:42

Personally, I hate weed whackers. They're terrible at my house: the places I need to weed are either next to plants that can't get whacked, or they're next to wire fencing that chews through tons of string, or they're next to rocks that chew through tons of string.

My preferred tool for getting in next to the fences, lilies, and trees is a pair of manual hedge clippers, like these:

Hedge clippers oc

I think mine have somewhat larger blades. Keep the blades sharp and they work really well. (Sharpening the blades is less of a chore for me that re-stringing the weed whacker, not to mention gas & related maintenance.)

For more open areas where the mower can't go, I like one of these:

Eine Sense...

Once you get the hang of it, using a scythe is a pleasant way to knock down tall weeds. I also use it for knocking down cover crops like buckwheat or sorghum-sudangrass. Carry a stone in your pocket and keep the blade sharp.

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Thanks for the answer! My neighbors already think I am crazy but I love the idea of trimming around my lawn with a scythe! Unfortunately I could only find the weed-whip in @Kate Gregory's answer at my local hardware store - so I am going to give that I try. – KennyPeanuts Sep 5 '12 at 19:44

Without question a scythe. They are by far the most elegant, efficient and pleasant tools to use. There is nothing comparable.

I had the same question and then one day it hit me. Life's been better ever since.

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I should mention that I too tried a weed whip. Honestly if it's not too late, I'd save your money. It's not just that you need a larger arc to get it to work, it's that you'd have to sharpen the blade - something that's a piece of cake on a scythe. – ari gold Sep 12 '12 at 3:57

When I was growing up on the farm, we used a long-curve-handled scythe for lots of weeding, but it was used by my great-grandparents for harvesting oats, barley, wheat, and wild hay before they could afford a horsedrawn reaper-binder. You can clear an acre of straight-standing weeds or grain in three hours.

For smaller jobs, use a hand-held curved sickle, if you can find one. I could not get one in my city hardware store, but I did get a hand-held one with a straight cutting head. I use it for weed control along a trail and creek. It is as fast or faster than an electric weed whip in lots of applications, with the benefits of no electrical/gas cost, noise, nuisance, or pollution, and it keeps one's arm in shape, with good, fluid exercise once you get into the swing of things (in the sense in which this phrase originated). Once you get into a rythm and your body is toned for it, you can scythe or sickle for hours with only a few stops to rest or mop your brow.

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A goat. I knew a guy who never mowed his lawn, just let sheep or goats onto it for short periods of time. It always looked nice.

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