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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green beans from the garden picked today

I got a hand full of of green beans out of our driveway bed yesterday. This will be our biggest success this year as the lettuce and spinach bolted on us after a hot spell a few weeks ago. Of course, now temperatures are nearly perfect for growing then, but now it is too late. I have to plant some this Fall and then get a quicker start next Spring.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: TB57 Lithium Ion Battery Cordless String Trimmer / Weed Trimmer

A few weeks ago, Troy-Bilt was nice enough to send me their new TB57 Lithium Ion Battery Cordless String Trimmer / Weed Trimmer. Like most other products I review, I was unsure exactly how useful this would be in my urban garden, but after a trial run it seems that this will find a solid place among all my other tools.

I have never really considered buying a line trimmer before, as I have no lawn on my property. Typically trimmers are used to trim around obstacles in the line and edge the grass where it abuts sidewalks, walls and fences. That said, I have found a great use for this trimmer.

In my front garden, I have a large arrangement of geometrically shaped azalea beds planted by the previous owners. (You may have seen and heard me talk about trimming those in previous installments of A Gardener’s Notebook) In-between these beds are pea gravel paths. During our Winter rains, these paths quickly fill with grass and other weeds. The drier months cause these to die back, but every Spring the front garden looks a bit messier than I would like. Additionally, the mature elm tree that dominates the front yard also drops tens of thousands of seeds. These quickly sprout up in the paths and in the middle of the other plantings.

Enter this new line trimmer. Today, I was able to go out and spend about an hour clearing the paths and other open parts of the beds of all types of grasses (both tall and short), elm seedlings and anything else that decided to pop up in the paths. In the past I had thought about using Round-Up or other herbicide to clear the paths, but years ago I decided against using such products in my garden. Everything here must survive under the rule of benign neglect and organic gardening, even if I don’t go about it with any grand plan in mind.

This benign neglect “philosophy”, if you can call it that, really makes the TB57 a great choice for my garden. It allows me to physically control weeds that would take hours to remove by hand (ask my wife). It is electric and cordless, so I am not using the heavily polluting 2-cycle gasoline motors used by many devices. The battery life is certainly sufficient for my limited needs. It seems it should give at least 1-2 hours of typical trimming work on one charge. The specifications at Troy-Bilt.com also show that it is only supposed to take 4 hours to recharge the Lithium-Ion battery. This means with an extra battery you would be able to work most of a day.

My only issue with the TB57 trimmer is its hand grip. In my testing I was unable to find a way of holding the unit that was totally comfortable. I think that adding a bit of a curve to the straight handle might help to move the battery out of the way a bit and allow for a more natural grip. I am also playing with the placement of the U-shaped handle to see if moving that up or down might make it a bit more comfortable for me. My 11-year-old son was able to easily operate the unit and didn’t seem to have the same issue with the grip, so maybe those who are a bit smaller than I am will find this less of an issue. My usage of the trimmer is typically in the 30-45 minute range, not the hours that some might be spending with it, so it didn’t significantly impact my ability to use the trimmer.

If you are looking for a powerful, yet cordless, trimmer for your garden, the Troy-Bilt TB57 makes a good choice. It is easy to use, feels lighter weight than typical gas-powered units, pollutes less and is useful in a variety of roles – whether performing your typical lawn trimming needs or my more esoteric path clearing.