Outdoor Power Tools 101
Outdoor Power Tools Primer
Squeezing in yard work after a long day is hard, but the right equipment will save you time and energy. To maintain a beautiful home exterior, including your lawn and garden areas, you need an assortment of power tools, such as a push or riding lawn mower, trimmer, edger and leaf blower. Other items to fill out your garage or garden shed include a chainsaw, snow blower, chipper and shredder. Keeping your yard maintained throughout the seasons will make it readily available to enjoy with the family and for entertaining guests at any time.
Types of Outdoor Power Tools
For heavy-duty cutting jobs, such as sawing through hardwood, a gas chainsaw is your best option. Gas chainsaws have a lot of power and can tackle almost any cutting job. Electric chainsaws are better suited for cutting softer woods and for smaller landscaping jobs such as garden pruning. You can get either corded or battery powered electric chainsaws. Both types are lighter and quieter than gas chainsaws.
Chippers & Shredders
Chippers and shredders are convenient for breaking down branches and brush to make compost or ground cover. You can buy a standalone chipper, a standalone shredder or a chipper-shredder combo. The more blades the machine has, the more efficient the chipping or shredding process. The size of the chute (the opening where the branches are inserted) determines the maximum size branch a chipper or shredder can handle.
Any yard will benefit from an aerator, regardless of size. An aerator is used to make holes in your lawn so that water, fertilizer and oxygen are absorbed more readily. There are two types: a spike aerator and core aerator. The spike variety pokes holes into the soil, while a core aerator removes cylinder-shaped plugs of soil. Core aerators are more efficient, since the holes created with the spike aerator can increase the density of the surrounding soil.
Selecting a lawn mower can be a challenge because there are so many different styles and features. The three main types are electric, rechargeable and gas. Electric mowers are extremely quiet, but their range is limited. Rechargeable mowers offer more freedom, but you need the battery power to outlast the job. Gas mowers offer the most power but are noisy and produce emissions. Choose a gas self-propelled mower for large or hilly yards and a manual push mower for a smaller yard. Mulching mowers cut and fertilize at the same time. For a debris-free lawn, choose a lawn mower that collects the cut grass in an attached bag.
Riding mowers are a wonderful convenience for cutting large lawns, especially if you have health or mobility issues. Choose a tractor that's suited to your yard size and has the type of transmission and attachments you want. If you spend a lot of time on your riding lawn mower, you should consider a model with comfortable, adjustable seating and a padded steering wheel. Headlights offer greater visibility for those evenings when you want to keep mowing even though the light is fading. Most riding mowers are gas powered, but rechargeable tractors are available to reduce noise and no emissions.
Trimmers & Edgers
For that just-landscaped look, use a trimmer to get at hard-to-reach areas and an edger to cut borders along fences, walkways, driveways and flowerbeds. String trimmers are handy for cutting grass and small shrubs. A heavy-duty trimmer is best for cutting tall grass or heavy brush. While an edger is similar to a string trimmer, it has metal blades and a vertical cutting head for deeper, cleaner edges.
A spreader is a must for applying dry fertilizer or grass seed evenly to your lawn. They come in manual or powered varieties, and some models can also attach to the back of an ATV or truck. Wheeled spreaders distribute the fertilizer or seeds as you move it across the lawn. Most have a selection of ratio settings that coincide with the different varieties of grass seed or fertilizer. A hand-held spreader is much smaller and doesn't distribute as well, but it's better for spot-treatments. Be cautious when spreading fertilizer as too much will burn the grass.
When fall arrives and trees drop leaves on your lawn, you could keep them for mulch or use a leaf blower to quickly clear them away. Leaf blowers are also handy for removing small branches that fall or get blown onto your lawn, and grass clippings that land on your laneway and sidewalks. Blowers come in two types: plug-in electric and rechargeable. Some models feature a vacuum option to collect the leaves into a bag. Mulching leaf blowers provide a steady supply of natural, no-cost fertilizer for gardens and flowerbeds.
Single-Stage Snow Blowers
When you need to clear the driveway quickly after a snowfall, nothing beats a snow blower. Electric snow blowers are a great choice for small driveways, decks or walkways. They’re also lightweight, compact and easily stored in a small shed or garage. For larger jobs, single-stage gas snow blowers provide more power as well as the flexibility to move about your property without the being tethered to a cord. They’re easy to control and clear snow quickly from mid-sized paved driveways with less than 20 cm of snow.
Two-Stage Gas Snow Blowers
A two-stage gas-powered snow blower will clear snow more than a metre deep and can be used on large driveways, long paths and sidewalks and any bumpy terrain. The snow is first collected by an auger, then sent up to the impeller and blown out. These snow blowers are steerable and self-propelled. They're particularly useful for operators who require powered pushing. This is the best blower for use on gravel and in regions prone to heavy snowfall.
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