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I've got a battle raging with about 1.5ha (4 acres) of grass. So far, the grass is winning.

Scattered through the grounds there are a few old buildings, multiple fruit trees and many berry bushes. In days long past this used to be a part of a sprawling farm, but these days it's just me and my family who go there for summer weekends. Mostly every other weekend, really. For one day. Umm... yeah, this isn't looking too good. Our interest is to keep it from overgrowing entirely, but we're not going to be doing any actual gardening soon. The apples and gooseberries are nice though.

So I need to combat the grass which is growing faster than I can mow it down. I have a regular petrol powered lawnmower but that stops being effective in tall grass. We also have a schyte and a rudimentary skill in using it, but that stops being effective for such a large area. Or at least it gets pretty tiring.

So I'm thinking about a grass trimmer, but I'm not sure what to pick.

Electric trimmers seem pretty neat - cheap, simple, lightweight, no mess, low maintenance, nature friendly, etc. But how to get the power?

If it's a corded trimmer, I estimate I need an extension cord of about 100m. That in and of itself is tricky. But even if I could pull that off, how easy would it actually be to maneuver around with all that cord? Has anyone ever done this and can confirm whether this is feasible or not?

If it's a cordless trimmer, the engine power drops dramatically (about 1/3 of that of a corded one) and the estimated mowing time is only about 30-40 minutes. Now, they do say that they can charge in about 1.5 hours, so maybe if I got 4 batteries to exchange.... But still, the tiny engine power makes me weary. How good are cordless electrical trimmers in practice?

I could, of course, opt for a petrol type. My dad has one and he lent it to me once. It was a 2-stroke engine and required the oil mixing dance which was messy as hell. Not to mention the smoke of a thousand chimneys.

I read that 4-stroke engines are cleaner, but they seem to be getting pretty pricey already, and some that I found also used the oil-mixing trick rather than a separate lubricant.

If I choose a petrol-powered trimmer, how to pick one?

I'd also prefer a metal blade rather than the plastic string spool, I think, because I suspect it is easier in everyday use (don't need to extend the cord every 10 minutes), has an overall greater cutting power, and doesn't litter the garden with tiny pieces of plastic. But I'd like to hear other opinions on this.

My budget would be... well, not enough for a lawnmower tractor. Besides, a tractor wouldn't be able to maneuver between the bushes anyway. Up to 200€ would be nice, but I suppose I can stretch it to 400€, if it's for a good cause.

I'm also open for other ideas. (Except for selling the land. It's been in the family for generations; too much sentimental value there)

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I recommend two solutions:

  • establish if there are any areas which only have to be mowed twice a year in the spring and fall. This is popular for low traffic areas in some cities and urban parks as it saves money. If you have to cut less area it will be easier
  • any grazing animal will do the job. Sheep, goats, cows... Farmers are usually happy to look for grazing land and you might be able to trade for produce or other help such as getting the grass cut with their tractor
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  • Grazing was my first thought as well. You will need adequate fences, of course. Sheep would be my choice - they are unlikely to try eating the apples, trampling the gooseberries, and being aggressive with your family's children, unlike goats or cows! You have enough area to support a flock of around 20 sheep in summer. But if you have pet dogs, that needs thinking through. – alephzero Jun 24 '19 at 19:33
  • We do have lovely neighbors who are actual farmers and raise a herd of cows (and they do use some of our land already), but I feel kinda awkward asking for so much help from them. Letting the cows loose however would not be a good idea. This has happened already once by accident and they do more damage than good. Plus, the ground is kinda soft, and some of those hoofprints are still there today... – Vilx- Jun 24 '19 at 20:08
  • Sheep actually eat the crowns of the grass, killing it. This is the big deal animosity between cattle and sheep ranchers! There are people one can hire who release their GOAT herds to gobble up grass and that only takes simple easy peasy electrical fencing. Where is it that you live? Why is the ground soft? Do you have automatic watering? 4 acres is way more that one person can do even if they LIVED there! Perhaps a full time person at hire to mow, and protect your land and deal with your orchards. Sheep are wonderful but they DO kill the grass by eating the crowns of the grass. – stormy Jun 24 '19 at 20:27
  • @stormy - I don't need a picture perfect lawn for playing golf. I merely don't want grass so tall you could lose small children in there. Basically, just... keep it under some kind of control. It's OK if I decimate just a part of it each week. Sheep or goats could be trickier to come by (though I do remember seeing some a few km down the road). I'll keep this in mind, but first I'd like to see what I can achieve with my own strength. – Vilx- Jun 24 '19 at 20:42
  • @stormy There's grass, and grass. Sheep have been feeding on some grass meadows in the UK for literally 1000 years and the grass ain't dead yet. I suspect your story is actually caused by overgrazing and an inadequate water supply, not by the fact that "sheep kill grass, period". Where I live there are meadows that have been grazed by sheep and cut for hay for centuries, and are never replanted. (It's obvious they have never been replanted from the richness of the wild flowers growing along with the grass...) – alephzero Jun 24 '19 at 22:21
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vilx...go with gas, a 2 stroke engine. Electric is just silly. Keep your RIDING lawn mower deck no lower than 3 1/2 inches. MOW ONCE PER WEEK, no kidding! Only water when you see your footprints stay down on the grass. Aerate with a plug aerator once per year! Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer 3 to 4 X per year. (Dr. Earth's Lawn Fertilizer is fantastic, and this I never say! Costs a little more but 3X per year only).

Always, bag your clippings. Use them in your compost pile or spread thinly on weeds at the back of your beds.

I mowed lawns with crews for 2 decades. 4 acres is too much unless you want to look like...some massively rich dude or dudette.

The edge on your CHOSEN 'lawn lawn' should be made with a flat shovel with radii, that can change but once one radii curve is determined that curve's radius stays the same until the direction changes. Big deal with looking professional. There should be a shallow trench between all lawn and plant beds! 6" X 6" X 6". Beautiful edge. Easy to maintain with a gas powered STIHL! My fav brand for blower and trimmer.

Go with gas. One other thing is that GAS engines help get people especially males out DOING the yard work. Cords and electric are WHIMPY.

Go STRING, not blade! Wear safety glasses. Keep that line perfectly even. I turn the trimmer upside down to lightly touch the strings on a boulder or concrete or asphalt. You will be able to hear the RPMs go UP when the two lines of string are perfectly even. This is a big deal.

Learn how to add oil to the gasoline. Less is best, too much is very bad. This is NOT tough. Most mixtures are meant to be 50:1, easy peasy, I mean, dragging cords around is far more annoying and inefficient.

You should also determine the REAL lawn from the rest of your 4 acres, there you can allow the clippings to stay if you don't mind a bit of a rough grass covering.

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  • Hmm... why string? I really don't have any preference or understanding about the subtle differences between the two. Blades just seemed easier/cheaper to maintain. Care to elaborate? – Vilx- Jun 24 '19 at 20:48
  • Those blades are meant to take down shrubs and trees up to 4" diameter. Line trimming is far more accurate. I took the shields off of our trimmers and made all the trimmers straight line heads. Got rid of the bounce trimmers, they don't work at all in commercial. One has to know what they are doing. I LOVE my string trimmer. A little Red Max but very powerful. Almost went into competition! Safety glasses and constant awareness of down stream of your trimmer. Blades are made for chopping down brush in wild areas. String or line trimming is critical for a lawn and edging. – stormy Jun 25 '19 at 0:39

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