I admit I am biased about this. I have long thought edging is unnecessary, but most have it professionally done and see it as only a reasonable charge added on to their grass-cutting bill, so why not? Edging is done because we can, just as we can keep our grass cut at a uniform height because of cheap rotary engines. If people still depended on hand mowers and natural fertilizer (and before that, grazing sheep), you would see far fewer manicured lawns.
Clumps of grass growing randomly over the edge of the sidewalk and driveway softens the hard edge which homeowners will eventually appreciate once everyone has a hard edge. The grass never takes over the entire sidewalk. At most, it grows out only about six inches and stops. When I see a carefully edged lawn, I think, “There lives a guy with too much time on his hands (or too much money).”
But, I found a quality battery-powered string trimmer that I thought I would try (no way would I mess with the maintenance of a trimmer powered by a gasoline engine). Here are my conclusions:
Those Hispanic guys who work for lawn-care businesses make it look easy, but they are very skilled. Just by eye, they can edge a straight line quickly walking along holding a heavy piece of equipment, but they have two advantages a home-owner like me does not: they do it every day all summer long, and every time after cutting an individual lawn, so the edge gets refined over and over.
If you edge it yourself, keep in mind the direction of rotation. String trimmers were designed to be used horizontally, to cut weeds too high for a lawnmower. Today, string trimmers are used mostly in the vertical position to cut a sharp edge. Most rotate the string counter-clockwise, so walk in a direction such that the rotation throws the debris in front of you, not back in your face. The shield should protect you, but don’t tempt fate.
My instruction book does not mention this. There are several icon stickers on the handle within red circles and a red line through them, some even with explanation points, but I have no idea what they mean. But, I am extra safety conscious. I wear a full face shield of shatter proof plastic that I got cheaply at Sears long ago, for many things, but always with a string trimmer.
Keep the spinning string from touching anything hard, such as the pavement, or it will wear away quickly.
You never see the maintenance of the string trimmer, itself. The line wears away and has to be replaced sooner or later. Cheap trimmers use thinner line that wears quickly, and winding it is a chore. Then, too, if it is powered by a gasoline engine, that has to be maintained with oil, gasoline, and spark plugs.
I love the convenience of my battery-powered string trimmer, but I am aware a rechargeable battery is at its best when first charged up. It is all downhill after that. It just matters on how steep the hill is. We’ll see.
Right now it is an necessary tool for an unnecessary job.
The edging reminded me of my glazing experience few years ago. I was replacing the glazing in many of my windows, and I was getting quite good at it. I pulled the putty knife along the frame and got a smooth, even bevel every time. (Window glazing putty is one of the stickiest, awful things to work with.) I compared it with the glazing in the Peirce-du Pont House at Longwood Gardens, built in 1730 and last restored in 1995. I noticed they used the authentic, old-fashioned way where they rolled the putty between their palms into a long strand, then pressed it into place with their thumb. The thumb-print of an anonymous worker left irrefutable evidence. Then they painted it roughly without masking tape.
It looked perfect and produced a water-tight joint. My way would have been no better, and would have looked out-of-place on an old house.