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How well do you know your weeds? Here are 13 of the most troublesome and noxious weeds with photographs to help identify them. Plus, see non-chemical solutions to get rid of weeds.
What is a Garden Weed?
No one likes to deal with garden weeds, but some weeds simply have to go—or they will outcompete your food crops, flowers, and native plants.
There are different types of “weeds.” Here are definitions based on the Weed Science Society of America’s descriptions.
“Weeds” aren’t inherently bad. Many weeds stabilize the soil and add organic matter. Some are edible to humans and provide habitat and food for wildlife, too. Weeds are also indicators of your soil’s health—or lack thereof. Find out what weeds can tell you about your soil!
10 Ways to Prevent Weeds Before They Become a Problem
Herbicides are an obvious and quick fix, but will not keep your weed problem from recurring year after year. For a healthy yard, you must address the cause.
- The #1 rule with weeds is never let ‘em seed! Weed early, when the weeds are young. Some weeds produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant, multiplying your weed control problems for years to come. Get used to inspecting your garden daily. When weeds are young, just pull them out or cut them off below the soil line. Be careful to keep your digging shallow so that you don’t bring new weed seeds to the surface. Weeds are easily to remove when the ground is moist, such as the day after fresh rainfall.
- Clean your gardening tools when you move from one area of the garden to another to avoid spreading weed seeds. Do not leave pulled weeds on the surface, either; discard in the trash.
- Mow your lawn regularly to keep lawn weeds from producing seed. Mow off these green leaves!
- Be careful when buying materials from garden centers. Ask for weed-free mulch, manure, compost, and soil. Read grass seed labels to make sure they don’t contain other crop seed.
- If you have time (6 to 8 weeks BEFORE planting seeds), cover a weedy patch with landscape fabric, black plastic, or an old carpet. First, break up the top 4 to 8 inches of soil in your garden beds, rake it flat, and cover the soil. Then, avoid cultivating the soil to a depth greater than 2 inches. (Do this in fall, winter, or early spring when it’s not active gardening season.)
- Once you’ve seeded, do not till a garden area if it’s filled with perennial weeds; you’ll only break up the underground tubers and spread weeds around.
- Apply a layer of mulch! Weeds seeds have a harder time pushing through mulch, and mulch blocks sunlight
- Water right around your plants; do not sprinkle your entire garden or you’re just watering your weeds.
- In lawns, be careful not to over-fertilize or under-fertilize, as you’ll be promoting weed growth.
- Establish a perimeter. Pay special attention to the area adjoining your flower beds, garden, natural area or lawn and establish a weed-free perimeter. Mow or mulch the area or pull or dig up weeds as they emerge. You’ll help to reduce the number of new weed seeds in the area you want to protect. Also, a good trimmer can make it easier to reach weeds along garden beds, posts, and tight spots.
Pay special attention to “perennial weeds” as identified in the list below. Perennial weeds (versus annuals) come back year after year and more difficult to control. You need dig up any roots, underground tubers, and rhizomes without leaving fragments behind. New weeds can grow from any pieces that break off and remain in the soil.
- Cut off the emerged green part of the weed with your hoe or mower—repeating the process quickly each time it regrows. Without leaves needed for photosynthesis, the underground plant parts will become weakened and may eventually die.
- If you dig out the weed, try to remove the taproot or as much as you can. You may be need to repeat several times.
- When pulling out these weeds, wait until the soil is moist, and grasp low on the stem to avoid breaking it off.
With these techniques, you’ll soon find that you won’t spend much time weeding the following years!
Common Lawn and Garden Weeds
Below are some of the most common lawn and garden weeds. We have divided this list of weeds into two sections: 1) troublesome weeds, which compete with vegetables, fruits, and crops but may also have their own beneficial uses (in fact, many are edible plants or attract pollinators) and, 2) noxious weeds, which are so harmful to the ecology that they are prohibited or controlled by law on a federal or state level.
Remember: Only you decide what’s a weed and the consequences. For example, if you are trying to grow asparagus, you need to keep the bed weed-free or you will have a poor harvest. On the other hand, if you don’t mind your yard being taken over by dandelions, let it happen!
I. Troublesome Weeds
The following weeds are not noxious—but will spring up on their own in gardens and yards and are troublesome if not controlled. Again, you decide what is a weed. If you have these weeds amidst your vegetables and you want to keep them because of their nutritional content, just know that they will affect the yield of your intended harvest.
Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.)
Crabgrass is a low-growing, summer annual that spreads by seed and from rootings of nodes that lie on the soil. Undisturbed, it can grow to 2 feet tall.
This weed appears from mid-spring through summer when the ground is warm. It grows well under dry, hot conditions. As an annual, crabgrass dies at the end of each growing season—usually at the first frost in the fall—and it must produce new seeds every year.
How to Control Crabgrass Fortunately, crabgrass is fairly easy to manage. Controlling crabgrass before it sets seed is important because the seeds can remain viable for at least 3 years in soil.
In the lawn, mowing regularly is often all you need to prevent crabgrass from flowering and producing seed. Most experts recommend that you mow your lawn to a height of 2 to 4 inches and that you mow frequently enough to keep it within that range.
Also, if you keep a lawn, be sure to select grass adapted to your location so that it’s a healthy, thick lawn. Crabgrass loves a poor lawn. Because seedling crabgrass isn’t very competitive, a vigorously growing turf will crowd out new seedlings. Perennial ryegrass is the best competition for crabgrass. It also provides some insect control, as it emits a natural poison that gives some small, damaging bugs the “flu.” Fertilizing is key and must be done in the spring and in the fall.
Many herbicides for crabgrass aren’t that effective. Avoid using chemical herbicides in vegetable gardens because of the variety of crops grown and planted there. In gardens, you easily can control crabgrass by mulching, hoeing, and hand pulling when the plants are young and before they set seed. You also can control this weed with solarization. Finally, crabgrass thrives in compacted lawns, so work on aerating the lawn and this will go a long way.
Mulching with wood products (e.g. wood chips or nuggets), composted yard waste, or synthetic landscape fabrics covered with mulch will reduce crabgrass in shrub beds and bedding plants and around trees by blocking sunlight needed for its germination, establishment, and growth. If crabgrass is germinating in the mulch, move it about with a rake to reduce seedling establishment. Hand-pull escaped crabgrass plants before they set seed.
Is Crabgrass Edible? Technically, yes, but grasses are generally not the tastiest weeds out there! That said, crabgrass can be used as a forage crop for livestock and its seeds have historically been harvested as an edible grain.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Purslane is actually considered noxious in at least one U.S. state. Why is purslane, an annual succulent plant that’s edible, considered so troublesome? After all, it’s high in vitamins and even grown as a crop in some countries.
The answer goes back to the definition of weeds: Purslane can produce over 2,000,000 seeds PER PLANT ! It reproduces by tiny black seeds and stem fragments in late spring, and it also can reproduce vegetatively through its leaves, making it especially tough to eradicate. Many a gardener has hoed purslane one day only to see it growing at full strength the next. So, unless you only want to grow purslane, think about how to control it.
How to Control Purslane In home landscapes and gardens, this summer weed is generally managed by hand-weeding. Keep an eye out for purslane! Pull out this weed as soon as you see it and destroy the plant; this weed can live in your soil for years!
Mulching is also helpful, especially in garden beds. To be effective, organic mulches should be at least 3 inches thick. Synthetic mulches (plastic or fabric mulch), which screen out light and provide a physical barrier to seedling development, also work well. Fabric mulches, which are porous and allow flow of water and air to roots, are preferred over plastics. Combinations of synthetic mulches with organic or rock mulches on top are commonly used in ornamental plantings.
Is Purslane Edible? Yes, you can eat purslane when it’s young and tender (assuming you’re not using chemicals in your garden). It’s a nutritional powerhouse and a great addition to a salad or stir-fry.
Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)
Another edible weed! Lambsquarters is a fast-growing summer annual which is very nutritious and delicious steamed or in salads or juiced. But treasure the tender baby lambsquarters or they will get huge and truly be a troublesome weed. This summer annual broadleaf weed is a big problem in gardens and farms with sugar beets, vegetable crops, and pulse crops such as dry edible beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Lambsquarters is a very fast-growing annual with seeds that are small and light enough to be blown by the wind over short distances. The seeds can sometimes even survive for decades in the soil. Under favorable conditions, these weeds can establish themselves quickly and spread profusely.
How to Control Lambsquarters This summertime weed rapidly removes moisture from soil, so remove it from unwanted areas as soon as possible! Cultivate lambsquarters out of your garden using a sharp hoe.
Is Lambsquarters Edible? Yes, you can eat lambsquarters (assuming you’re not using chemicals in your garden). In fact, their leaves are quite high in beneficial nutrients! The young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw in any vegetable dish, or sauteed or steamed like spinach. See our natural health blogger’s post on Anytime Salad.
Pigweed (Amaranthus spp.)
Image: Pigweed. Credit: United Soybean Board.
Pigweed wins the title of most “problematic” annual weed. It has evolved traits that makes it a tough competitor, especially in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton.
An annual weed that reproduces by seeds, pigweed is characterized by its fleshly red taproot. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather.
How to Control Pigweed Try to pull out this weed before it flowers!
Some weed seeds require light for germination and pigweed is one of those. To prevent pigweed in the future, cover your garden plot with a winter mulch.
Also, till very shallowly in the spring; only turning up a small amount of soil in order to keep those seeds buried. When you till, you may bring up some pigweed seed, so it’s best to mulch again. Cover the soil with five layers of wet newspaper and cover that with 3-6 inches of mulch.
Is Pigweed Edible? Pigweed is also edible—though only when young and tender (and when taken from a pesticide-free area). In June, the young leaves of Amaranthus blitum or amaranth are abundant and should be eaten because of their high nutritional content. Vitamin-wise, these greens are packed like carrots or beets and can be delicious in a tossed salad. You can also cook them as you would spinach. Some Native Americans traditionally used the black seeds of this plant as a ground meal for baking.
Chickweed (Stellaria sp. Cerastium spp.)
Common chickweed (Stellaria media) is a winter annual that grows in well-watered areas. It’s a reservoir for insect pests and plant viruses.
When growing without competition from other plants, common chickweed can produce approximately 800 seeds and takes up to 8 years to eradicate. Chickweed thrives in moist, cool areas, so it often gets started before spring crops can become competitive. For this reason, it can limit your vegetable harvest.
Common chickweed often forms dense mats and rarely grows higher than 2 inches. The flowers are small with five white petals. Common chickweed will grow in a wide range of soils, but does particularly well in neutral pH soils with high nitrogen. It doesn’t grow as well in low pH (acidic) soils.
How to Control Chickweed Fortunately, annual chickweed is easier to control as long as you pull the weed when the plant is small and before it flowers. The challenge can be locating it during the short period between germination and flower production, so be sure to monitor closely and completely remove the weed so it doesn’t reroot.
Remember this is a “winter annual.” So, monitor the soil surface for chickweed seedlings throughout late fall and winter and then remove them by shallow cultivation or by hand pulling. By spring time, we would not recommend chemical controls for this winter annual.
Using a layer of organic mulch such as wood chips, at least two inches deep, will reduce the amount of weed seeds germinating by limiting light and serving as a physical barrier. Synthetic mulches such as landscape fabrics may also be used. In landscaped areas, they should be covered with an additional layer of mulch (rock or bark). Vegetable gardens can also utilize black plastic, both as mulch into which seeds or transplants are placed and also between rows.
Is Chickweed Edible? Chickweed is edible. When young, the leaves, stems, and flowers can all be eaten either raw or cooked. It adds a delicate spinach-like taste to any dish. Chickweed can also be a tonic and made into a tea.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Ah, we love much about dandelions with their bright yellow heads in the springtime. This perennial weed forms rosettes of leaves with yellow flower clusters rising from the center. Bees can also find dandelions helpful though this plant is not a preferred food (and a poor quality source of protein). If you care about bees: Yes, a lawn full of dandelions is better for bees than a weed-free lawn, but not nearly as good as a garden with a variety of plants and no dandelions.
In addition, in time, dandelions will also take over any habitat from your garden to your ornamentals to your grasses. Not only do dandelions have wind-borne seed, but they also reproduce vegetatively thanks to large tap roots. So unless you cut the root deep into the soil, you can rest assured the plant will reemerge.
How to Control Dandelions Removing mature dandelions by hand-pulling or hoeing is often futile (unless done repeatedly over a long period of time) because of the deep tap root system of established plants. It’s best to pull young dandelions by grasping them firmly by their base and wiggling gently, as you must dislodge their deep taproot from the soil. Alternatively, use a hand trowel to dig them out. Try to remove the whole dandelion root at once, as any piece left in the ground will probably grow back.
If you keep a lawn, a vigorous (and competitive) lawn will slow down dandelion infestation. Dense turfgrass and ornamentals shade the soil surface, reducing the establishment of new dandelion seedlings. Many broadleaf weeds may be controlled with mowing, but this is NOT true of dandelion. Because it grows from a basal rosette that is lower than a mower blade can reach, mowing will have no effect on control.
For a garden bed, mulches of wood chips or bark are effective if they are maintained at a depth of least 3 inches deep (and replaced over time). Mulching with landscape fabrics can be particularly effective for controlling seedlings, reducing the amount of light that is able to reach the soil. Use a polypropylene or polyester fabric or black polyethylene (plastic tarp) to block all plant growth.
Solitary new dandelion plants along fence rows, roadsides, flower beds, and in turfgrass should be grubbed out (removed by digging out the entire plant, taproot and all) before they produce seed. Dandelion knives and similar specialized tools are available for removing individual weeds and their roots while minimizing soil disturbance. Monitor the area for several months to make sure that removal of the taproot was complete.
Are Dandelions Edible? Yes! If you cut the leaves of this perennial when they are young, you can enjoy tender greens in a salad. The wild ones in the spring are amazing! The flowers, too, can be eaten raw or fried, or used to make dandelion wine. Here are a few dandelion recipes to try: Dandelion Recipes. Be sure to leave plenty of dandelions for pollinators.
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Shepherd’s purse is actually a Brassica and part of the Mustard family along with cabbage. This flowering annual produces heart-shaped seedpods after flowering. It likes cool weather and its yellowish-brown seeds are long-lived in the ground.
How to Control Shepherd’s Purse Keep an eye out for its distinct leaves and pull out this annual weed by hand before it seeds. Be sure to remove the entire root.
Is Shepherd’s Purse Edible? The immature heart-shaped seedpods of shepherd’s purse have a peppery taste and can be used as garnish in moderation. Shepherd’s Purse also has a long history as a natural remedy for healing. Note: The leaves and mature seeds may cause indigestion and should not be consumed.
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
Creeping Charlie (ground ivy) and wild violet are common in shady lawns. Native to Europe, this perennial plant grows low to the ground in a vining habit, killing everything else around it. The plant has bright green leaves with scalloped edges on creeping stems (called stolons) that grow along the ground.
The reason Creeping Charlie is so challenging is the way it spreads—by both seeds and its creeping stems. If you try to dig it out and leave behind a fragment of rhizome (root), even a tiny piece can grow up as a new plant!
How to Control Creeping Charlie
- Improve turf density by seeding grasses in shady areas which will help to limit this weed from spreading.
- Also, make sure to grow the most suitable type of turfgrass for the location (e.g., plant shade tolerant turfgrass varieties under trees).
- Improve soil drainage or water less frequently to dry the soil.
- Mow regularly (to a height of 2 to 3½ inches), fertilizing and watering appropriately, and overseeding in the fall.
- Pull out Creeping Charlie by hand if you only see a plant or two here or there. Try to pull the weed without breaking it and over time it may give up.
In heavily infested areas, the extensive spreading stems of creeping Charlie can be difficult to completely remove. If you have mats of weed, smother with a barrier of newspaper, tarp, or cardboard that will block all sunlight for at least a week. Once plants are pulled, make sure to dispose of the plants in such a way that they cannot re-root. Common herbicides do not work.
Is Creeping Charlie Edible? Prior to the mass cultivation of hops, Creeping Charlie was historically used in the brewing process of beer. As a member of the mint family, it has a slightly minty flavor and is often used by medical herbalists.
The noxious weeds (on federal and/or state level) on this list include field bindweed, quackgrass, Canada thistle, yellow nutsedge, and buckhorn plantain. There are other noxious weeds out there that are also problematic, such as Johnsongrass, but the ones listed here tend to be the most common.
Quackgrass (Elytrigia repens)
Quackgrass is a creeping, persistent perennial grass that reproduces by seeds. Its long, jointed, straw-colored rhizomes form a heavy mat in soil, from which new shoots may also appear.
Weeds, Weeds, Weeds How to Identify Some Common Garden Weeds in Alberta
How to Control Quackgrass Try to dig out this fast-growing grass as soon as you see it in your garden, being sure to dig up the entirety of the plant (including the roots). Dispose of in your waste bin rather than the compost pile, as it will likely continue to grow in the latter!
Is Quackgrass Edible? Not particularly.
Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)
Canada thistle is an aggressive, creeping perennial weed from Eurasia (despite its name). It infests crops, pastures, and non-crop areas like ditch banks and roadside. Canada thistle reduces forage consumption in pastures and rangeland because cattle typically will not graze near infestations.
This weed reproduces by seed and whitish, creeping rootstocks which send up new shoots every 8 to 12 inches. Plants reach 2 to 4 feet tall, grow in colonies, and reproduce asexually from rhizomatous roots (any part of the root system may give rise to new plants) or sexually from wind-blown seed.
The plant emerges from its roots in mid- to late spring and forms rosettes. Then, it will send up shoots every 8 to 12 inches. You may spots its purple flowers in July and August.
How to Control Canada Thistle Canada thistle is difficult to control because its extensive and deep root system allows it to easily recover from control attempts. Horizontal roots may extend outward 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep! Plus, seeds may retain viability 4 years in the soil.
The first plants need to be destroyed by pulling or hoeing before they become securely rooted. Look for Canada thistle above ground in early spring.
If Canada thistle becomes rooted, the best control is to stress the plant and force it to use stored root nutrients. It’s at its weakest during the flowering stage in summertime; this is a good time to begin cultivation and destroy the roots and rootstock. One season of cultivation followed by a season of growing competitive crops such as winter rye, will go a long way toward eradication.
An approved herbicide, applied for two years in a heavily thistle-infested area, is an effective and limited control. Usually, a combination of techniques is needed. Consult with your local cooperative extension office.
Is Canada Thistle Edible? Believe it or not, Canada thistle is in fact edible—with some preparation required, of course. After the spines are meticulously removed, the leaves can be prepared like spinach. The stems are the most prized part, though their bristled outsides must be peeled first. Be sure to wear gloves!
Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Field bindweed is a hardy perennial vine that has been given many names, including perennial or wild morning-glory and creeping jenny. This noxious weed sprouts in late spring and becomes a huge problem in warm weather, when it spreads ruthlessly.
Note: Bindweed is NOT the same as the annual morning-glory (in the genus Ipomea) which has a larger (2-inch wide), showier flower and heart-shaped leaves.
An invasive from Eurasia, field bindweed is one of the most persistent weeds. The fast-growing root system grows right through the roots of other plants! And its roots are found to depths of 14 feet! Lateral roots form secondary vertical roots, anchoring the plant in place. A single field bindweed plant can spread radially more than 10 feet in a growing season. This extensive underground network allows for overwintering without foliage, and it can persist for up to 50 years in the soil.
How to Control Bindweed Unfortunately, tilling aids bindweed’s spread. Fragments of vertical roots and rhizomes as short as 2 inches can form new plants! The best control is prevention or early intervention. Seedlings of field bindweed must be removed before they become perennial plants within 3 to 4 weeks of germination. After that, perennial buds are formed and, by summer, it’s almost impossible to get all the roots.
Remember that each fragment of root will grow into a new plant, so use a garden fork to carefully pull out the entire root, including soil. Since bindweed grows through the roots of other plants, you may also need to lift your other perennials and plants!
Not everyone has a year to let a garden go fallow, but the easiest way to kill bindweed organically is to smother it from light with weed control fabric, black plastic, or old carpet; ensure that the edges of the covering overlap. Once the covering is removed, new bindweed plants might germinate from seed in the soil; monitor the site for new seedlings and hand-weed as needed.
Sometimes this perennial weed can only be killed with herbicides; this is more applicable to fields versus small home gardens. Speak to your local cooperative extension.
Is Bindweed Edible? No. All parts of the bindweed plant are poisonous. Do not ingest.
Nutsedge (Cyperus spp.)
Nutsedges are perennial weeds that superficially resemble grasses, but they are thicker and stiffer. Their leaves are arranged in sets of three from their base instead of sets of two as you would find in grass leaves. They are among the most problematic weeds for vegetable crops and can greatly reduce harvest yields. Yellow nutsedge has light brown flowers and seeds, while purple nutsedge flowers have a reddish tinge and the seeds are dark brown or black.
How to Control Nutsedge If you have nutsedge, it’s often an indication that your soil drainage is poor or waterlogged. However, once nutsedge is established, it’s very difficult to control.
The best approach is to prevent establishment of the weed in the first place. Remove small plants before they develop tubers. Tubers are key to nutsedge survival. If you can limit the production of tubers, you’ll eventually control the nutsedge itself. Most herbicides aren’t effective against tubers.
Also, eliminate the wet conditions that favor nutsedge growth. Use mulches in landscape beds. Landscape fabrics are the best mulch for sedges because the sharp leaves of nutsedge can find their way through other mulches.
Is Nutsedge Edible? Dating back to ancient Egypt, yellow nutsedge has historically been harvested for its tubers, which have a sweet, nutty flavor. Purple nutsedge tubers are also edible, but have a less pleasant, bitter taste.
Buckhorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Buckhorn plantain (also called English plantain or narrow-leaved plantain) is a common perennial weed most often seen in pastures, meadows, and lawns. This narrow-leafed weed reproduces and spreads by seeds.
How to Control Buckhorn Plantain Buckhorn plantain is low-growing, which makes it difficult to remove by hand. This plant’s long taproot makes it drought-tolerant and difficult to control, too.
So, to remove this weed, be diligent about pulling up young plants and destroying it before the plants go to seed. Learn how to scout and recognize young plants to help prevent early introductions from becoming persistent problems.
The best control is also preventative: grow a lush stand of plants so the surface of the soil is shaded and prevents new seeds from getting established. As a last resort, there are approved herbicides effective on buckhorn plantain to spray in the fall. Speak to your local cooperative extension.
Is Buckhorn Plantain Edible? Yes, this weed is edible, especially when the leaves are young and tender. Enjoy it raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed.
Learn About Weeds
To learn more about combating common garden weeds, see Weed Control Techniques, as well as our mulching guide.
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How to make homemade weed killer
For almost any gardener, weeds can feel like the bane of existence. They are a blemish on an otherwise perfect lawn or garden, and worse, they’re persistent. The most effective method to keep them at bay is manual weeding, but it’s a time consuming project and a major pain in the neck. Nobody likes to spend hour after hour doubled over in their garden in the hot sun.
Herbicide can be an attractive alternative, allowing you to kill weeds by simply spraying a product from a bottle. But what if you’re hesitant to use such hardcore chemicals? What if you want to kill your weeds without having to make a trip to the store? Is there a way to make an effective weed killer right from home?
Luckily, there is. With a few basic ingredients you probably have in your kitchen, you can kill those weeds in no time. Here we have a basic explanation of how to make homemade weed killer.
Homemade weed killer ingredients
The most effective homemade option is a mixture of white vinegar, salt, and liquid dish soap. Each of these ingredients has special properties that combine to kill weeds.
Both the salt and the vinegar contain acetic acid, which serves to dry out and kill the plants. The dish soap, meanwhile, reduces the surface tension in the mixture so that the liquid enters the pores of the leaves rather than remaining harmlessly on the surface.
For a healthy supply of this man-made concoction, mix a gallon of white vinegar, one cup of salt, and one tablespoon of dish soap. Make sure it is properly stirred, then put the mixture in a spray bottle for easy use. You can stash the bottle in your house for repeated use.
It is best to apply the weed killer during the sunniest part of the day, as they sun and heat help dry out and kill the weeds. Spray the weeds from close range, making sure they are entirely soaked. Remember that the solution makes no distinction between weeds and desired plants, so be sure to spray it only on what you’ll be happy to see killed.
When to apply the weed killer
For the mixture to be truly effective, it is best to wait for a bright, clear afternoon. On a sunny day, the effect of the weed killer should be evident in a few hours. You’ll likely notice the leaves of the weeds turning brown. The leaves should get darker and darker before eventually withering away.
Getting those stubborn weeds
One downside of this homemade weed killer is that it does not seep down into the roots of the weeds like some chemical products do. This means that some tougher weeds might survive the initial onslaught. Be prepared to make multiple passes over your garden over the course of a few days to really kill the weeds.
Lemon juice also has acidic qualities that can help kill weeds, and if you mix it with white vinegar it can be especially potent. Like the mixture described above, it will not attack the roots of the plants, but burns the leaves when applied on a sunny day. The withering of the leaves might take a day or two, so be prepared to show a little patience.
Alternative home remedies
If you want an even simpler method, you can use boiling water to kill weeds. This is especially effective for areas like the cracks in pavement, as you can toss the water on and avoid doing damage to anything fragile nearby.
What makes this solution so magical is its simplicity. There is really nothing more to it than boiling water on the stove and tossing it on the weeds. Boiling water can of course be dangerous, so exercise extreme caution. Hold the pot far away from you as you pour, and avoid wearing sandals in case the water spills or drips.
Killing weeds is a major pain, which is why the best option is to try to minimize their growth in the first place. Many savvy gardeners treat their soil before weeds appear to stop the problem before it starts. This is something you can also do with natural, homemade solutions.
Corn gluten is a natural product of milling corn, and can be purchased in the form of pellets or powder. It doesn’t kill larger plants, but by applying it around your garden you can suppress the future growth of weeds.
Weeding a garden might be annoying, but there are plenty of tricks to help you out. And don’t worry, there are plenty of homemade solutions for killing weeds that don’t involve constant trips to the store for nasty chemicals. Now that you know how to make homemade weed killer, you can keep your garden in tip top shape without even leaving the yard. Good luck, and happy gardening!
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The 10 Best Weed Eaters of 2023
Michelle Ullman is a home decor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home decor for over 10 years for publications like BobVila.com and Better Homes Gardens, among others.
Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry’s most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40 years of experience and 20 years of writing experience. Mary is also a member of The Spruce Gardening and Plant Care Review Board.
Emily Estep is a plant biologist and journalist who has worked for a variety of online news and media outlets, writing about and editing topics including environmental science and houseplants.
Whether you call it a weed eater, weed whacker, or string trimmer, these landscaping tools are ideal for trimming grass and weeds along the edge of a flowerbed, around a tree trunk, underneath a deck, and in other hard-to-reach places.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love, says, “A weed whacker can quickly and effectively trim grass, weeds, and other unwanted plant growth in areas difficult to reach with a mower or shears. When choosing one, the most important thing to look for is the power it offers, as well as the size and weight of the tool. Gas weed eaters are the most powerful, but electric models are best for most homeowners.
He cautions, To ensure safe use of a weed whacker, always wear the appropriate protective gear, including goggles and gloves, stand with your feet apart for balance, hold the tool’s handle firmly but comfortably with both hands, and never operate the weed whacker without its guard attached.”
Ryobi 40-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Electric Cordless String Trimmer
- Multiple attachments available
- Variable speed
- Adjustable cutting width
- Very easy to reload with string
If you want the power of a gas weed eater but the convenience of a battery-powered tool, then this 40-volt offering from Ryobi is the answer. Our top choice of string trimmer is loaded with great features, including a brushless motor for longer life with less required maintenance and an adjustable handle so you can position it comfortably for your height. We also appreciate its two-speed trigger with variable speed control, so you can go faster when you need extra power for tough weeds or brush, and slow the tool down to extend the battery run-time when merely cutting small weeds and grass. Plus, it has an adjustable cutting width, with a minimum of 13 inches and a maximum of 15 inches.
This string trimmer comes with 0.085-inch string, which is good for trimming grass and weeds, but you can also load it with 0.095-inch string if desired for tackling tougher weeds, light brush, or thick grass. Either way, the weed whacker is very easy to reload, thanks to the REEL EASY head, which can be rewound in under 60 seconds. When you want to let out more string, a gentle bump of the tool against the ground advances just the right amount so you can keep working without having to stop and let out line by hand. The tool also comes with a set of serrated plastic blades, which can be fitted into the tool’s head in place of string. Use the blades for cutting tougher brush and weeds. While not nearly as strong as metal blades, these do a good job on softer weeds and grasses, but they aren’t sturdy enough for woody weeds.
This versatile weed eater works with the Ryobi line of Expand-It accessories, sold separately, which can turn your string trimmer into a pole saw, electric hedge trimmer, soil cultivator, snow thrower, blower, and more quickly and easily. The weed whacker comes with one Ryobi lithium-ion 40-volt battery and charger, which are compatible with any other Ryobi tool using a 40-volt battery. Depending on conditions, you can get up to one hour and 10 minutes of run-time from the battery before needing to recharge.
Price at time of publish: 213
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 11.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 40 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 15 inches
Greenworks Corded Electric 5.5 Amp 15-Inch String Trimmer
- Telescoping handle
- 15-inch cutting swath
- Head pivots for use as trimmer or edger
- Some complaints that it is difficult to refill the string spool
- Only uses lightweight string
Just because a weed whacker comes at a budget price, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo great features, as this corded electric offering from Greenworks proves. Plug the tool into an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 100 feet in length; no smelly gasoline fumes or worrying about a battery running down before you finish. Suited to a small-to-medium yard, this string trimmer’s head easily pivots for use as a trimmer or an edger, doubling its versatility. It has a 15-inch cutting swath and uses 0.065-inch string, which automatically advances as the exposed string wears down. When you need to reload the string, you can use pre-filled spools or rewind bulk string onto the spool that comes with the tool. However, you cannot use heavy-weight string with this weed eater, and if you choose to rewind the spool, rather than replace it, it can be a bit tricky to do correctly.
The handle telescopes from 40 inches to 50 inches, and the grip is also adjustable, so you can set the weed whacker to fit your own height, making it comfortable to use for lengthy gardening sessions. Its 5.5-amp motor runs smoothly and quietly and has enough power to quickly cut through grass and non-woody weeds. At only seven pounds, this is a reasonably lightweight string trimmer, so it won’t wear you down before the job is through.
Price at time of publish: 90
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 7 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 5.5 amp | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 15 inches
Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight Shaft Trimmer
- Powerful cutting capabilities
- Fairly easy to start
- Wide cutting swath
- Can be converted for use with metal blades
If you have a large area of brush, overgrown grass, or woody weeds to clear, then you’ll appreciate the extra power of a gas weed eater like this offering from Echo, which runs on a 25.4 cc, professional-grade two-stroke engine. Like other gas-powered weed eaters, you’ll need to fill the gas tank with a 50:1 ratio of fuel to oil mix. Echo’s i-30 starting system makes it much easier to start up this weed eater than most others, and once powered on, this sturdy beast chews steadily through just about anything you ask it to. The handles are padded and ergonomically shaped for comfort and are also designed to greatly reduce the amount of vibration that reaches your hands and arms.
The 0.095-inch heavy-duty string advances with a bump of the tool against the ground. When the string runs out, the Echo Speed-Feed system requires no tools and takes only seconds to reload; no frustrating fuss or bother. With a 17-inch cutting swath, you can work your way across the lawn quickly. Should you need even more powerful cutting action, Echo sells a separate conversion kit that lets you swap out the string head for a metal-bladed head that easily cuts through thick underbrush and overgrown weeds. Be aware that this weed eater is quite loud and does emit gas fumes, as is typical for gas-powered tools.
Price at time of publish: 329
Type: Gas | Weight: 13.4 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 25.4 cc | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 17 inches
Ryobi One 18-Volt Cordless Battery String Trimmer
- Battery compatible with other Ryobi products
- Can be used as trimmer and edger
- Very light
Go cordless with this lightweight string trimmer that’s designed to take care of small-to-medium yards. The curved shaft makes it easy to maneuver around shrubs, rocks, and tree trunks, and the handle is ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip. Plus, weighing a mere four pounds, this is a weed eater that shouldn’t tire you out. It’s powered by an 18-volt battery that recharges in an hour and runs for anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes per charge, depending on how you use it. And with a simple push of a button, you can switch the head’s orientation: use it horizontally for trimming and vertically for edging.
The cutting swath of this tool is 10 inches, which is on the small side but can be a good thing if you are edging a flowerbed or other area with many obstacles to work around. It can only use 0.065-inch string and automatically feeds out more string as required. It’s not too difficult to reload once the string runs out. The weed whacker comes with an 18-volt battery that can be used in other 18V Ryobi tools, as well as a charger. Note that it is not compatible with Ryobi’s Expand-It attachments, however.
Price at time of publish: 69
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 4 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 18-volt | Shaft Type: Curved | Maximum Cutting Width: 10 inches
Best Corded Electric
Ryobi 10-Amp Attachment-Capable Corded String Trimmer
- 18-inch cutting swath
- Compatible with Ryobi Extend-It attachment line
- Powerful motor
As long as you have an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 100 feet, and you don’t need to trim beyond that point, a corded electric weed eater is a great option. You get a lot of power, like you would from a gas-powered tool, but you also get the benefits of a cordless tool, including no smelly fumes, no need to keep gasoline on hand, and an easy start at the push of a button. Plus, there’s no need to worry about your battery running out too soon. This corded weed whacker from Ryobi is loaded with great options beyond the above: It has a 10-amp motor for maximum performance, it cuts an impressive 18-inch path, and it is designed to reduce vibrations through the handle, so it’s easy on your hands, although it is relatively heavy for this type of tool.
The tool comes with 0.080-inch string, but can also use 0.095-inch string if you need something even more heavy-duty. String advances with a bump of the tool to the ground, and when it’s time to replace the reel, it’s very easy to install a new one or simply rewind bulk string around the reel. Best of all, this string trimmer is compatible with Ryobi’s extensive line of Expand-It attachments, meaning you can purchase a wide variety of optional attachments to turn the weed whacker into a brush cutter, hedge trimmer, pole saw, snow thrower, and more. However, its head does not pivot for use as an edger, as do many other weed eaters.
Price at time of publish: 90
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 11 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 10 amp | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 18 inches
Best Under 200
BLACKDECKER 20V 12 Inch Lithium Ion Cordless 2-in-1 Trimmer/Edger
- Battery compatible with other BLACKDECKER products
Here’s a reasonably priced tool that effectively whacks weeds with the head in a horizontal position and then serves as an edger when you rotate the head into a vertical orientation. This battery-powered, 20-volt string trimmer from BLACKDECKER is perfect for small-to-medium-sized lawns and has enough power to chew through typical grass and weeds (although this isn’t the tool for tough brush or heavily overgrown lawns). You can adjust the handle up or down to suit your height. The cutting width of this weed eater is set at 12 inches, which is somewhat narrow but sufficient for small yards.
The weed eater comes with 0.065-inch line, which is suited to light use on grass and small weeds. Note that you cannot refill it with heavier line. The line advances automatically as it wears down with use, so you don’t need to carry the task out manually or bump the tool on the ground. The weed whacker comes with the 20-volt battery and charger, which are compatible with other BLACKDECKER cordless tools. Run-time before needing to recharge the battery varies greatly, depending on yard conditions, but you will typically get anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes on a single charge, which is enough to finish trimming or edging a small lawn.
Price at time of publish: 89
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 7.1 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 20 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
WORX WG163 GT 20V Power Share Cordless String Trimmer Edger
- Comes with two batteries
- Free string replacement reels
- Converts from trimmer to edger
The WORX Power Share cordless weed eater just keeps racking up high ratings; this weed whacker has more than 20,000 customer ratings and an average of 4.5 stars. But that’s not really surprising, considering that this 20-volt tool comes with two batteries, so you can have one charging and one in use, doubling your working time. The batteries and charger are compatible with any other 20-volt WORX tool. You can easily pivot the head on the weed eater to turn it from trimmer to edger, and it’s easy to angle it for use on a slope or when reaching into awkward spots between plants or around obstacles. When using it as an edger, its rubber wheels help you stay in a steady line.
This weed whacker uses 0.065-inch string, which is easy to advance at the push of a button, thanks to the Command Feed spool system. But most amazing of all, WORX will send you free refill spools of string for the life of the tool; you just pay for shipping. This will come in handy, since the string can run out quickly. It also has a 12-inch cutting diameter, which isn’t the highest but is quite sufficient for average-sized lawns and yards. And at only 5.3 pounds, this is a lightweight string trimmer that’s easy to use even when your gardening sessions stretch out long.
Price at time of publish: 140
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 5.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 20 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
DeWALT 60-Volt Cordless Attachment-Capable String Trimmer Kit
- Adjustable cutting swath
- Can be used with many different attachments
If you use your string trimmer frequently and want lots of power as well as useful features, then you’ll appreciate the DeWALT weed whacker, which is a cordless model running off a 60-volt battery; that’s a lot of power, although it does add to the overall weight of the product. The high-efficiency brushless motor requires no maintenance to keep on running smoothly and fairly silently. There’s a two-speed, variable control trigger, so you can turn it up high when you need maximum power for chewing through brush or tall grass, or turn it down low to extend the battery run-time. You can even adjust the cutting width between 15 and 17 inches.
The weed whacker comes with 0.080-inch string, but the tool can also use 0.095-inch string if you need something even more heavyweight. To advance more string, just bump the weed eater lightly against the ground. The quick-load spool makes it easy to refill the string once you run out. If you want even more versatility from this weed eater, you’ll like its universal-attachment capability, which means you can purchase a wide variety of attachments from DeWALT or other companies to transform the weed whacker into a brush cutter, hedge trimmer, pole saw, blower, tiller, and more. It comes with a 60-volt DeWALT battery that is compatible with other tools from this company, as well as a charger.
Price at time of publish: 301
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 15 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 60 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 17 inches
Best with Attachments
BLACKDECKER Corded String Trimmer With Lawn Mower Attachment
- Lawnmower attachment is great for small yard or slopes
- Easily swivels for use as edger or trimmer
With most models of string trimmers, you have to purchase attachments separately. However, this 6.5-amp corded electric weed whacker from BLACKDECKER comes with a lawnmower attachment, making this a highly versatile tool for small backyards. In fact, it’s three tools in one: edger, string trimmer, and lawnmower. It’s especially good for mowing on slopes or hills where a traditional lawnmower can be hard to maneuver. And it can be used with an outdoor-rated extension cord up to 150 feet in length, so you can work your way around most small yards. Since there is no way to add a clipping bag to the tool, you can leave the grass clippings in place on the lawn to decompose into mulch or rake them up once you are finished mowing.
The string trimmer uses 0.065-inch string. There’s an automatic string feed, so you don’t have to stop and reel string out yourself or worry about bumping it against the ground while mowing. As a weed eater, the cutting swath is 12 inches. It pivots easily into edger mode. For use as a mower, the trimmer simply snaps into the mower base. You can adjust the mower‘s cutting height from 1.6 inches to 2.4 inches; the mower does not have blades, but simply uses the spinning string to cut the grass, and it does a great job on most lawn types. You can even adjust the height of this tool’s handle between 33 inches and 43 inches to make it comfortable for your height.
Price at time of publish: 119
Type: Corded electric | Weight: 9.9 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 6.5 amps | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 12 inches
Milwaukee M18 FUEL Cordless Quik-Lok String Trimmer
- Very powerful
- Works with Milwaukee’s line of Quik-Lok attachments
- Adjustable cutting swath
This professional-quality cordless string trimmer has the kind of power and run-time you’d expect from a gas weed eater, thanks to its M18 8.0-Ah lithium-ion battery. This sturdy weed whacker consists of two parts: a Milwaukee M18 FUEL power head with Quik-Lok and a Milwaukee M18 FUEL Quik-Lok string trimmer attachment. You can use any of Milwaukee’s other compatible attachments with the fuel head, making this a very versatile tool that can carry out a wide range of landscaping tasks. It has enough power to clear through thick brush, overgrown grass, and heavy weeds, reaching full throttle in less than a second and maintaining power without bogging down. The tool is designed for good balance, making it easy to carry and comfortable to use, even on lengthy yard tasks.
A variable-speed trigger lets you go faster when you need more power, or slow things down when you want to extend battery run-time as much as possible. The cutting width of the weed whacker adjusts from 14 to 16 inches. The string that comes with the tool is 0.080 inches, but you can also use it with heavier 0.095-inch line. Either way, you can reload the string reel in just a few seconds. When the string gets short during use, just bump the trimmer against the ground to advance more string. Not everyone needs a weed eater with this kind of power and at this price point, but for those who do, it’s hard to beat this offering from Milwaukee.
Price at time of publish: 349
Type: Cordless electric | Weight: 12.3 pounds | Engine/Battery Power: 18 volts | Shaft Type: Straight | Maximum Cutting Width: 16 inches
If you’re looking for a cordless electric weed eater that not only has plenty of power but is also loaded with great features like an adjustable cutting swath, variable speed control, and compatibility with numerous attachments for other landscaping purposes, then it’s hard to go wrong with the Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Electric String Trimmer. But if you need the kind of power that only a gas tool can deliver, then the Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight-Shaft Trimmer is our recommendation. It has a 17-inch cutting swath and can be converted for use with metal blades instead of string.
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What to Look for in a Weed Eater
There are three basic types of weed eaters, based on their power source.
Gas-powered weed whackers like the Echo 25.4 cc Gas 2-Stroke Straight Shaft Trimmer are the most powerful type, making them the best suited for large properties or for chewing through heavy brush. On the downside, they are much louder than electric models and can be heavier and more difficult to start. Plus, they require you to have a supply of gasoline on hand, and in many areas, they are being phased out due to their emissions.
Corded electric string trimmers are not as popular as they once were, but are still a fine choice if you are looking for a low-priced weed eater, you don’t have a very large lawn or garden to maintain, and you have access to an outdoor electrical outlet and an outdoor-rated extension cord of 50 feet or more. The Ryobi 10-Amp Attachment-Capable Corded String Trimmer has an 18-inch cutting swath and great power.
Cordless or battery-powered weed eaters are now the most popular type—the WORX Power Share WG163 is an especially highly rated option—particularly in areas where gas-powered models are restricted. Today’s cordless weed whackers have good power, although not as much as a gas-powered model. Still, they have more than enough oomph to maintain a small to medium-sized lawn. As a rough guideline, you’ll generally get half an hour or so of runtime before you need to recharge the battery. For many people, that’s all that’s needed to get the job done. If you have a big lawn, then it’s convenient to keep two batteries on hand so one can recharge while the other is in use. Other benefits of cordless weed whackers include a lack of smelly emissions, immediate starting at the press of a button, reduced vibrations, and quiet operation.
A string trimmer’s cutting swath or cutting width is the width of the tool’s cutting capacity, indicating how much you’ll be able to trim in one pass. There are weed whackers with cutting swaths as small as 10 inches, and weed eaters with large 20-inch cutting widths, but most are between 12 and 16 inches. If you have a large lawn, a string trimmer with a wide cutting swath will help you trim more quickly. But if you need a tool that can squeeze between shrubs, rocks, or other obstacles, then you’ll find that a weed wacker with a smaller cutting swath can maneuver a bit more easily.
Some higher-end weed eaters have adjustable cutting swaths that let you go up or down a couple of inches. Our top choice, the Ryobi 40-Volt Brushless Electric String Trimmer, can be adjusted for cutting widths between 13 and 15 inches.
Noise Level and Vibrations
Generally, cordless string trimmers are fairly quiet; you’ll mostly hear the whirl of the string and the sound of grass or weeds giving way. However, gas-powered weed whackers are loud enough to require ear protection during use, and corded electric models may or may not be loud enough to make you want to cover your ears, depending on the brand and model. However, you should wear eye protection when using any type of weed eater, as there is always a danger of stones or debris being tossed up into your face.
Vibration can be an issue with many weed eaters, especially gas-powered models. This can be tiring if you are using the tool for an extended session of trimming or chewing through brush. Some brands now build anti-vibration technology into their string trimmers, usually in the form of a handle that helps reduce some of the vibration. You can cut down even further on unpleasant hand numbness or fatigue by wearing a good pair of thick work gloves while you use your weed eater.
Since you’ll be holding your weed eater the entire time you are working, its weight can become an issue. You don’t want to be tired out before you finish your edging or trimming. As a general rule, electric weed eaters are quite a bit lighter than gas-powered models. The Ryobi ONE 18V Cordless Electric String Trimmer weighs a mere four pounds.
Most electric weed eaters weigh 12 pounds or less, although battery-powered models are usually heavier than those with a cord. Gas weed whackers generally weigh between 12 and 18 pounds.
Any weed eater should have a protective guard over the string to help keep rocks and other debris from flying toward you. However, you should always wear closed shoes, long pants, and eye protection when using these tools. Most weed whackers have the power switch placed so you can easily shut the tool off immediately should there be an emergency.
Straight or Curved Shaft
There are two basic styles of weed eater shafts: straight and curved. Curved shafts are generally easier to maneuver around rocks and other obstacles and are less tiring to the user’s back during long work sessions. However, straight shafts give you more reach and can be extended underneath shrubs or fences. Weed eaters with straight shafts often have a little more power, and battery run-time tends to be a little longer on these tools as well, but the choice between the two mostly comes down to personal preference.
Weed whackers work by spinning a thin plastic string-like cord very rapidly, which creates enough force to slice through grass, weeds, and brush. Most weed eaters have a roll of string within the base of the tool, so you can reel out more as the cord wears down, which can happen fairly quickly when working on thick brush or grass. There are three basic methods for reeling out more cord:
- Automatic feed senses when the cord is getting short and reels out more without you needing to do anything. The Greenworks 5.5 Amp 15-Inch Corded Electric String Trimmer is an auto-feed weed whacker.
- Push-button feed requires you to push a button on the weed eater’s handle to reel out more string.
- Bump-feed weed eaters reel out more cord when the trimmer is bumped against the ground.
Once the reel of string is empty, you’ll need to refill it. This is a fairly simple process for most weed eaters, but be sure to read the instructions before attempting it for the first time.
Note that there are also different thicknesses of string-trimmer lines or strings: as a general rule, 0.065-inch to 0.085-inch string is for light-to-moderate trimming of grass and weeds. For heavier weeds, brush, or tough grass, string that’s between 0.085-inches and 0.110-inches is required. Many string trimmers can use different sizes of line so you can switch them out if necessary.
Most string trimmers have just one set speed. Some higher-end models, including the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Cordless String Trimmer, however, let you adjust the speed with either a two-speed setting or variable control. This allows you to speed up the tool for more power while tackling thicker growth or tougher brush, or slow the speed down to extend battery run-time when working on small weeds or grass.
Some string trimmers have heads that can be adjusted from a horizontal position to a vertical orientation, which allows them to be used as an edger as well as a trimmer. Others, including the DeWALT 60-Volt Cordless Attachment-Capable String Trimmer Kit, allow you to attach a variety of separately purchased heads for other landscaping tasks such as cultivating soil, shearing hedges, mowing grass, or blowing leaves.
The vast majority of weed eaters are stringed tools, using a thin plastic cord that spins very rapidly to cut through grass and weeds. There are more powerful, but similar tools often called brush cutters, that use metal blades instead of plastic cord to chop through thick brush, tough weeds, and highly overgrown grass. Some weed eaters can be converted for use with blades as well as with plastic cord. Typically, only a gas weed eater has the power to convert to metal blades for cutting thick brush. The electric corded or cordless models that can cut with blades, as well as cord, typically can only handle plastic blades. These can cut light brush but can’t handle thick, woody stems as a metal-bladed brush cutter can. Neither a string nor blade weed eater is necessarily better; the best choice depends on your specific needs and the condition of your property.
Both gas and electric weed eaters have their pros and cons. Gas-powered weed eaters are stronger and aren’t tethered to an electrical outlet. However, gas weed eaters require filling with gas and oil and create smelly fumes. They are generally much louder than electric models and vibrate more during use. They are also heavier and more costly than electric models. However, for maintaining a large property or tackling thick brush or very overgrown weeds, a gas weed eater can be the better choice. For most yard cleanup, however, an electric weed eater, whether corded or cordless, is sufficient to handle grass, weeds, and light brush that isn’t too woody. Electric weed eaters don’t create smelly fumes and don’t require you to keep gasoline on hand. They generally are much quieter than gas-powered models and don’t vibrate as heavily during use, which makes them easier on your hands and arms.
There are pros and cons to both two-stroke and four-stroke (also called two-cycle and four-cycle) gas-powered weed eaters. Fewer moving parts means that two-stroke weed eaters are lighter in weight and easier to maintain than four-stroke models. They generally also have quite a bit more power. However, you will need to mix the gas with oil for two-stroke trimmers. If you’re looking for a quieter model that produces lower emissions, a four-stroke gas trimmer is the way to go. Another benefit: with four-stroke models, no mixing of gas and oil is required. Keep in mind, these models are pricier and generally weigh more than two-stroke weed eaters.
There are gas weed eaters for home use with 20 cc engines and professional models with as much as 50 cc engines, but the majority of gas-powered weed eaters used by the average homeowner have 22 cc to 28 cc engines, which provide plenty of power for tackling overgrown weeds, grass, and brush. When it comes to electric weed eaters, corded models for very light use might have as little motor power as 3 amps or as much as 10 amps, but for typical home use, a motor in the middle of that range is more than sufficient. Cordless weed eaters can use batteries between 18 volts and 80 volts, but again, the middle of that range is generally powerful enough for regular home use.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Michelle Ullman, who specializesin home and garden products. She has been writing for The Spruce since 2020, covering a wide range of home improvement products including power and hand tools, painting supplies, landscaping tools, and tool organizers. To choose the best weed eaters for this article, she consulted dozens of customer and third-party reviews, considering each product’s power source, performance, ease of use, versatility, and price point. She received additional input from Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love.
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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