Tools That Multitask
Multitasking. In today’s busy world, being able to do more than one thing, at the drop of a hat, is indeed an asset. This Swiss-Army-knife mentality has made us look for dual purposes in many of our favorite products: phones that take photos, computers that burn CDs, and cars with backseat movie theaters for the kids. And although it may seem like a trivial accomplishment for a coffee maker to toast bagels, it is nothing short of brilliant that multitasking technology has been applied to yard and gardening power equipment. (But don’t worry, we’re not talking about hedge trimmers that send e-mail.)
A SIMPLE PREMISE
The simple beauty of multitasking tools began with the premise that one power head is enough. Numerous attachments transform a single power head into a versatile quick-change yard-care artist. If you have a small garage or storage shed, and if the type of gardening and landscaping that you do requires you to use a variety of power tools (pruners, hedge trimmers, cultivators, edgers, and so on), it makes perfect sense to consolidate equipment–from both a storage space and cost standpoint.
Laurie Olm of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, uses her multitasking system to maintain her 123-acre property. She has three attachments: a brush-cutting blade, a string trimmer, and a sweeper. “I use the blade attachment for making and maintaining four-wheeler trails on our property,” she says. “The blade cuts through black walnut saplings like butter.” She uses the sweeping attachment to move pebbles and pea gravel off her driveway and for light snow removal in winter.
Besides the versatility of snap-on, snap-off attachments, the lightweight design of these multitasking systems heightens their appeal. The power head units can weigh as little as 10 pounds (without their attachments), and some larger systems come with wheel and weight kits to offer additional stability. There are two basic design types for the power heads. Some feature a straight shaft with a loop handle; others come with Y-shaped handles to allow two-handed control.
For nearly every verb in the garden–trim, edge, prune, cultivate, sweep–there is an attachment that can perform the action. For example, Stihl’s KombiSystem (KM Series) and Stihl’s YardBoss (Laurie Olm uses the latter) offer a family of different power heads that allow you to quick-change the attachments for the gardening action you need to do next–from trimming and pruning to patio and path cleanup. Mantiss new E-system features everything you need to keepyouryard neat and trim: it is a hedge trimmer, pruner, line trimmer and edger. Shindawas multitasking system offers three different power head choices with six different attachment options.
What should you look for when buying a multitasker? Obviously, if you are consideri ng this type of system, you have convenience, storability, and consolidation of efforts in mind. You should also think about the chores for which you’ll use the system, and make sure the one you get has the appropriate attachments (see “Multiple Choice,” below). Before you buy, have the dealer show you the features and benefits of each system. Perhaps the most important thing is that you try changing the attachments yourself before you make a purchase. This type of system is useful only if it’s easy for you to switch attachments as fast as you need them. H
Tasks and the attachments that match them
While nearly all single power head systems offer attachments to trim, edge, hedge clip, and clean up, s some models offer even more sophisticated functions, such as aeration and dethatching. Here’s the rundown on actions you can do with just one power head.
Hedge trimming. Depending on the system, you have several different hedge-trimming options. A straight attachment allows you to make quick work of a shape-up for your boxwood or privet hedge. An adjustable head that locks into several different positions extends your mobility with an overall trimming rotation that ranges from 90 to 150 degrees, depending on the model.
Grass cutting. For weed and grass trimming, you i can pop on the attachment that best meets your needs. For basic turf detailing, a line-trimmer attachment allows you to “take a little off the top” around potting sheds, fence posts, trees, and arbors. A grass-blade attachment is perfect for rougher vegetation, but not a good choice for trimming around small trees-the blade can cause trunk damage. For more persistent and scrubby I vegetation, some systems offer a power scythe that allows you to clean up those rougher areas.
Edging. For neatening the areas where turf meets sidewalk, path, driveway, or garden bed, an edger is the ideal attachment. Some edgers feature adjustable depth control so that you can truly be on the cutting edge.
Pruning. For cleaning out the dead growth in shrubs, small tree branch removal, fruit tree pruning, and clipping woody perennials, you can snap on a chain saw attachment that transforms your power head into a pole pruner. Some systems offer optional shaft extensions so that you can prune hard-to-reach areas with ease.
Cleaning. In the early spring and late fall, blown soil and leaf debris can mar the great looks [and treadability] of patios and walkways. With one of several sweeping attachments, you can whisk your way down your garden path to a neater, cleaner look. In winter, some sweeping attachments will remove light snow.
Cultivating. In tight areas-those along fences, near buildings, and in densely planted perennial gardens-a cultivating attachment is the perfect way to fluff up soil and mix in compost, well-rotted manure, or other amendments. Some systems feature several different tine types, letting you choose the one that works best for your soil.
Dethatching. Thatch, over time, can greatly diminish the lush look and health of a lawn. Some multitasking systems offer a dethatching attachment that allows you to remove that layer of dead grass that accumulates on the soil surface.
Aerating. For the lawn-conscious homeowner, some systems also offer an aerating option. This attachment creates slits in the soil of the lawn to improve the airflow around the grass blades and increase moisture and fertilizer absorption. -K.W.J.