Is the grass reaching the windowsills?
Has the patio’s colour achieved a luminous pea green? It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, to put some muscle behind the big spring clean and clip.
Used judiciously, pressure-washing adds effortless, explosive excitement to boring jobs.
It can reface filthy paving, blast clean the wheels and underside of the car, sweep slime smartly off the deck boards, smarten up patio furniture and even handle dirty house render at a gentling angle.
How and ever, the stop/start business of transporting and loading up the right lance for the job, sprinting over to twist the tap closed and open, and repeatedly firing up the motor soon kills the joy of deploying water power. In-hand control and adaptability is crucial.
Karcher is synonymous with trustworthy washers and from an entry-level 110-bar model forward, its R&D is always impressive.
Together with Bosch, Nilfisk and Stihl, Karcher’s best machines touch on semi-professional performance.
The new Karcher K5 and K7 range features its celebrated water-cooled motor and carries Full Control G180Q operation.
This new digital read-out climbs up and down three power settings with the touch of a finger, while the trigger gun can be adjusted to vario lance, dirt-blaster and detergent application settings.
Snapping into the sleek aluminium handle, this versatile lance is ideal for tackling various surfacing and levels of muck.
The Premium package with the K5/K7 machines includes a 10m pressure hose, an integrated water filter plus a complimentary Home Kit of T450 Patio Cleaner, and a 1l bottle of Stone & Facade detergent.
From €360 for the K5 (145 bar, 2.1kW) up to €436 with a patio head and full Home Kit. K7 with patio head and Home Kit (max 180 bar, variable, 2.8kW), €649.99.
When buying any pressure washer package, look out for the inclusion of a non-splash patio cleaner attachment which even at €30-€60 extra often makes more sense than sourcing this accessory independently.
For a budget spend of under €200 for a smaller yard or garden and lighter tasks look for a power range of 1.2kW to 1.6kW, a robust build, and a machine that’s easy enough to pick up and tote around a multi-level garden.
Consider the quality of connectors and a water-hose length of 5-10m.
I’m still impressed by the Karcher K2 with its simple click system of soft, medium and high pressure, 110 bar/1.4kW, with a high pressure 120-bar gun and T150 patio head, €169.99.
It starts at just €120 for a simple K2 kit and is often on sale in various suppliers including Co-op Superstores for as little as €90.
Cordless, pistol-style pressure washers (connect to the hose and go) from €289 for the Karcher KHB5, Woodies DIY.
I won’t be able to talk any true petrol-head out of their fossil fuel mower with its horrifying noise, spillages and emissions.
Virtually no garden, however, wild and woolly, demands petrol as standard.
Ride-on cowboys? Don’t bother arguing over the litres of gas required for their beloved steed taking impossible corners with an eight-point turn. They love those gas-hungry nags.
Just as Dyson is throwing away the vacuum cord entirely, the improvement in recharging battery performance is stoking not only the burgeoning robot mowing division, but the whole area of quiet, light, environmentally friendly cordless walk-behind machines.
Once you’re content with the build quality of your cordless machine, it’s all about run time and the recharging times.
Most of us only have limited hours to wrangle the garden into shape.
Running time on a single charge with the wrong battery-powered mower will be a nerve-mincing gallop to the finish line.
Evaluate your sward with all its lumps, bumps, delays and fiddly bits.
How long does your current mower take to tackle it? 668sq m (8.23m x 10.23m) is the size of a tennis court.
Mower makers tend to reference tennis courts for sizing, so keep this scale in mind when reading specs.
There are battery powers available from 36V-80V (don’t over-spend for a tiny suburban garden).
The choice of size of the cutting deck is influenced by the size of your lawn and will determine the number of passes you will make.
A full 60-minute run from one 90-minute charge is superb and a premium spend for something like the 36V Lithium-ion Bosch Rotak 43 LI Ergoflex Cordless, €649.95.
The Greenworks G40LM35K2X is a popular 40V choice, with 51 minutes from a full charge and a steel deck (€499 — often on offer as little as €299 with multiple suppliers).
Some mowers offer a reduced charge time, 75%-80% for say 30 minutes of cutting time — ideal for finishing up.
Variable blade speed (Worx terms this “Intellicut”) allows you to draw down less power for an already short lawn or torque it up for a problem spot.
Spear & Jacksons supplies two batteries as standard (2x20V) to handle 1200 sq m in a single run with its 40V S4040X2CR, great value from €269. Suppliers include Argos.
Stihl has introduced an interesting Mono Comfort handle on its cordless machines and offers a wide range in affordable robot mowers from €1,158 — try them out at Douglas Forest & Garden.
Beyond the standard features for any mower including deck size, mulching capability, variable deck height, rear rollers and grass-box capacity, keep in mind that not only is cordless convenience more expensive, the battery and charger are not always sold as standard with the machine.
The warranty on the battery will be separate to that of your mower.
Some brands including Stihl, Worx and Ryobi (ONE + system) offer rechargeable batteries that you can share between other strimmers and hedge cutters.
Battery gauges are not standard, but are included on Worx models.
Petrol engines or weighty batteries are inevitable if you intend to tackle long grass and tough fibrous weeds with a strimmer.
Not everyone will be capable of the RSI-inducing vibration and bulk of such a monster in full roar.
Black & Decker mounts many of its motors closer to the centre of the shaft — better balance and far less exhausting.
For general tasks focused on grass control, a lighter-corded or battery-powered machine is sufficient.
Whether you opt for a traditional horizontal strimmer or a rotating head, interruption to the line-feed and chips to plastic blades are par for the course — maddening but inescapable.
Generally these glitches are a result of expecting skinny line or flimsy blades to do more than they are designed for.
Dual line-feed options are best for thickets, weeds and grass.
A cordless 12V-24V machine will run in the area of a half hour but allow you enormous range in terms of travel between beds and around trees where a cord can be a genuine hazard.
Worx throws ina 20V 25cm cordless trimmer worth around €120 with its WG927E Cordless 34cm mower.
It even includes two sharable batteries, all for €249.99.
Choose a unit with a lithium-ion battery over a cheaper NiMH battery and, as with mower batteries, see if it will marry up with other power tools.
Look for wheels on the edger — great for a clean line and fewer arm cramps.