- What are lawn mowers?
- Types of lawn mowers
- How to Choose The Right Lawn Mower to Suit Your Needs
- Lawn Mower Accessories
- Accessories for the rear
- Choosing the right lawn mower repair service
What are lawn mowers?
Lawn mowers are basically machines that help to mow your lawn. While there are many designs of lawn mowers out there, most lawn mowers have these in common: wheels, blades, and a mechanism to turn the blades.
For the most common lawn mowers, the blades rotate at high speeds to cut your grass. They are horizontally fitted in a casing that protects them. This casing not only keeps the grass from flying all around the place as you cut them, but it also hides the blades so it doesn’t cause harm to anyone that gets too close.
The wheels allow you to cruise around your lawn while the blades do the cutting.
Types of lawn mowers
Lawn mowers have gone through years of improvements and redesigns since they were first used. These improvements are often geared towards increasing two main things: efficiency and convenience. As a result, the machine now comes in different types, technologies and designs.
Lawn mowers fall into different types, depending on your point of reference. We could talk about the lawn mower types based on blade movement just as much as we could classify them by their power sources. To make things straightforward, I will describe the lawn mower types from various points of reference.
Reel Lawn Mowers
Also known as cylinder lawn mowers, reel lawn mowers do their cutting with two main things: a cutting blade and a reel of blades. The cutting blade is set at the desired cutting height and the fast-moving reel blades cut the grass against the cutting blade. Usually, the reel of blades comprises three or more blades.
When you compare a reel lawn mower to any other type of lawn mower, the former usually gives the finest cut. And when the grasses are cleanly cut, they heal quickly.
This lawn mower, however, has its own downsides. The first of them is that there isn’t much one can do in terms of adjustments. They are often set at a height that doesn’t give too much room for adjustments.
Due to their lack of easy adjustability, they are most suitable for use on flat surfaces. If you try to use them in rough or uneven surfaces, you might end up with a choppily mowed lawn.
Another downside to using reel lawn mowers is that they have reduced performance on grasses that are coarse. When you use this lawn mower on coarse grass, the effectiveness of the mower takes a hit.
Rotary Lawn Mowers
This other kind of lawn mower has a different blade configuration from the reel lawn mowers in that it has a set blades that spin horizontally at a high speed. The moment they hit the grass, they cut it off.
Rotary lawn mowers are a popular choice of lawn mowers as they offer more power than their reel counterparts. This is because most rotary lawn mowers are powered by gas or electricity. As a result, they work well for uneven terrains, longer, and coarse grass.
However, it is not all sugar and honey with rotary lawn mowers. Usually, the cut is not always as smooth as that of a reel lawn mower. And when the cut isn’t smooth, the healing of the grass is not fast. As a result, there might be a discolouration of the grass from green to brown or yellow.
In addition, if you don’t set the cutting height of the blades to be high enough, it would reduce the smoothness of the cut, especially on uneven terrain. You might just end up with scrapes and gouges here and there. It could even get worse when the blades are blunt or clogged.
By Power Source
Lawn mowers are powered by either of these three: gas, electricity and manually (hand). When you are thinking of mowing an expansive lawn, you would need lawn mowers that can eat up the grass quickly and efficiently. Gas and electricity-powered lawn mowers fit into this job description, but the former fits better than the latter.
Gas Powered Lawn Mowers
Many lawn mowers have internal combustion engines that run on gas. These engines are known to be more efficient in attacking thicker and taller grass.
The most common type of internal combustion engine used for rotary push lawn mowers is the four-stroke engine. Although some mowers use two-stroke engines, these mowers are usually older models. Four-stroke engines have more efficient combustion and greater torque when compared to two-stroke engines.
To start these engines, one would have to pull a manual crank start. However, bigger lawn mowers often have electric starters that are way less stressful to start.
Gas-powered lawn mowers are usually powerful and are perfect for expansive mowing with their horsepower often ranging from four to seven. Also, they are tough against grasses while cutting them as efficiently as possible.
There are some disadvantages, however. The first disadvantage is that of pollution from the internal combustion engines. This problem is one that cuts across all internal combustion engines. Another downside is the noise they make.
Finally, if you are planning on buying a gas-powered lawn mower be prepared to learn to do some basic maintenance or you risk grounding your mower. It’s not like you have to do much, though. You just have to replace spark plugs and engine oil from time to time.
Electricity Powered Lawn Mowers
The quieter alternative to gas powered mowers is the electric model. These lawn mowers usually come in two categories: corded and cordless lawn mowers.
To use corded electric mowers, you would have to keep them plugged. While this offers you power and efficiency, it reduces your reach. Imagine you want to mow a large area, but you cannot reach anywhere beyond a particular radius because of the length of the cord.
Also, you risk mowing over the cord accidentally and earning yourself an unhealthy dose of electric shock.
Except you have a small lawn, I don’t recommend that you use a corded electric lawn mower. Instead, use a cordless electric mower.
Cordless electric mowers are powered by rechargeable batteries. The higher the voltage of the battery, the longer the mower can run, the more powerful it is, and usually, the heavier it is.
If you check out an electric mower and you don’t see the battery outside, then it is on the inside. Electric mowers that have their batteries on the outside allow for easier swapping of the batteries when they are depleted. However, make sure you dispose of the battery properly if you can’t recycle it.
An electric mower has less power than a gas mower of the same weight. But a major advantage of electric mowers is their environmental friendliness. There is no pollution-causing internal combustion engine for them.
Hand powered lawn mower
This is the category that most reel lawn mowers fall into. They feed on your push or pull to work. The reels are connected to the wheels of the mower, so they spin faster when the wheels are rotating.
Don’t use this lawn mower for a large lawn, except you have a lot of time and energy to spare.
Some lawn mowers don’t perfectly fit into any of those types I mentioned earlier. Although they often have a combination of any of those, they still deserve to have their own category. These mowers include:
Things get convenient here. Riding lawn mowers have seats that have controls around them. The seat is where the person doing the mowing sits. They have cutting decks mounted on them which take care of the cutting. Riding mowers come in different types. The most common of them are lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers.
When you are looking to cover a large area of lawn, you want to be on any of these lawn mowers. Not only are they convenient, but they are also usually powerful and efficient. Most of them make use of rotary blade systems, only with over one blade.
Riding mowers have three drive types. Of these three, the manual and hydrostatic transmissions are the most commonly used. Manual transmission mowers are less expensive, but hydrostatic transmission mowers are way easier to use. Electric transmission is the third type. It is not as popular as the others because of its expensiveness.
The cutting decks of riding mowers are made from different materials. Some are made of heavy steel, while others are made of light steel. Heavy steel decks are often more expensive than light steel decks. Other materials used for making decks include aluminium and hard composite plastic.
Apart from the cutting duties that riding mowers excel in, they can also do some other important garden tasks. You can mount snow blowers, yard vacuum, snow plows or even rotavators to them.
Tractor Pulled Lawn Mowers
This type is usually attached to the side or the back of a tractor. They are controlled by the controls of the tractor.
Robotic Lawn Mowers
These days, technology doesn’t really want us to do much anymore, not even mowing our own lawns ourselves. There are sophisticated robotic lawn mowers that can do that now.
When you are using a robotic mower, use a border wire to indicate the boundary of the lawn. The robotic mower sees the border wire, and it knows it is not supposed to go past the boundary. Also, these border wires can indicate the recharging dock of the mower.
The sophistication of the robot lawn mowers has increased so much that they now have many sensors that help them make decisions autonomously.
Hover Lawn Mowers
As the name already suggests, hover mowers hover above the ground, unlike other mowers that slide across the ground. They do this through an impeller that sits above the blades and blows air down against the ground to keep the mower hovering.
The hovering ability of this mower makes it easy to move around and use on uneven lawns. However, it isn’t always the best option for larger areas.
Generally, hover mowers are not as expensive as other kinds of lawn mowers, and they are usually very light. The only downside to using them is that they offer little in terms of power.
Self Propelled lawn mowers
Although a self-propelled lawn mower does not give you the complete hands-off experience that a robotic lawn mower gives, it still comes close. Self-propelled lawn mowers automatically move on their own with little guidance from anyone controlling them. Their engines not only put their blades to work, but they also turn their wheels so they go forward on their own.
A major advantage of self-propelled mowers is that they make the mowing job easy for their users, as the users don’t really have to do much more than just guide the mowers on the right path.
On the downside, however, there usually isn’t much one can do to control the speed of the mower. So it becomes more like a game of patience when the mower is moving slower than needed, and a game of catch up if the mower is moving faster than needed.
How to Choose The Right Lawn Mower to Suit Your Needs
From the previous section, I think it is fairly obvious that you can’t just head to the store to get any lawn mower that catches your fancy. This is because there are various types of mowers that all have their pros and cons.
Buying any mower without giving enough thought to how it would suit your needs could make you end up with a fancy mower that does nothing but sit in your garage.
Without further ado, some of the factors that play the highest roles in determining a lawn mower type that would suit your needs are:
When it comes to the terrain of your lawn alone, there are so many things that you might have to consider. One of them is how obstacle-filled the lawn is. There are some mowers which are great for manoeuvring around tight spaces and obstacles. Others would make a pathetic job of it. Also, if there are many trees around, you might have to be mowing over twigs and nuts. As you might expect, not all mowers can handle that.
Another thing to consider if your grass is thick or not. While you consider that, don’t forget to put the evenness of the lawn into consideration. Is your lawn even? Is it filled with hills everywhere? If there are hills, then how steep are they?
Analyzing these things would help put a lot of things into perspective. It would help you avoid a lot of the confusion most people encounter when choosing a mower.
The size of the lawn must have come to your mind at some point when you were considering its terrain. While you can just get any push mower, make a few rounds across your lawn, and have yourself a cleanly mowed lawn on small lawns, you could spend a whole day on bigger lawns with the same mower.
Also, if you would use an electric mower, know how long it can run before it needs to be recharged.
Best Mowers for Different Terrains
Small, smooth lawns without hills and obstacles (Less than 0.25 Acres)
These are the easiest to mow. There are no obstacles to avoid, and there are no hills to climb. It is a completely smooth ride. For this reason, just about any lawn mower type can do the job.
But since the area is small and confining, using the larger and powerful mowers could prove to be an overkill. That is why the ideal mower for mowing a small lawn that doesn’t have much unevenness and hills are reel mowers, some electric mowers and gas-powered mowers.
Reel mowers are great for even cuttings, especially when the lawn area is not big at all. However, you should still move around to clear any debris before you use this mower. You would be surprised at how the smallest of things can make you have unwanted stops.
Also, reel mowers do not need any maintenance. They are light and could serve as a form of exercise to use.
Electric Push Mowers would also do a great job of clearing your small lawns. However, you still have to consider if you want a corded electric push mower or a cordless one. Corded push mowers are restricted in the distance they can cover as they can only go as far as their cords allow them to.
While cordless electric push mowers allow you more freedom, they aren’t much more powerful than their corded counterparts. Therefore, electric push mowers are only good for lawns that fit into this category: Small, without debris, and without hills.
On the upside, however, they are light and make little or no noise.
Gas Powered Push Mowers can cut small, even lawns without debris, and they can still do more. They have more power than electric mowers and reel mowers. That is why you might encounter some twigs here and there and still have an effective mowing.
Also, they eat up thick grass like it’s nothing, and they are light. On the downside, you would need to be doing some constant maintenance and still have to deal with their noise while they work.
Moderate sized lawns with a few hills (less than ½ acre)
Things are beginning to get tougher here. Ordinary push reel mowers might not do the job with the needed efficiency. Something else is needed. While you may use a gas-powered mower and still have it good here, another type that performs well is the self-propelled mower.
Self Propelled Mowers are like other push mowers, only that what you’re doing isn’t so much of pushing. Instead, you are merely guiding the mower. They have engines that propel them forward, making them very easy to use over a larger area without having the people behind them do much.
Don’t get things wrong. Self propelled mowers are not light. In fact, they are the heaviest push mowers around. Their ability to move on their own just makes them seem light. That is why trying to get them around manually could be a tough task.
Another advantage of using self-propelled mowers is that they can be easily maneuvered. This easy maneuverability comes into play when you have a lot of obstacles and tight spaces to mow around. In addition, you don’t necessarily have to make many rounds across your lawn before you mow the whole place. This is because some of them come with wide mowing decks to make the job faster.
Things get more interesting with the different drive options of self-propelled mowers. There are all-wheel, rear-wheel, and front wheel drive options. These various options help them tackle different hills with different levels of steepness. And of them all, the all-wheel drive option provides the best performance on uneven and hilly terrains.
Self-propelled mowers are either electric powered or gas powered. This is where they inherit the disadvantages of either power source. Electric powered self propelled mowers would need constant recharging while the gas-powered alternative makes noise and needs constant maintenance.
Big lawns with many hills and an uneven terrain (over one acre)
Here, there is no amount of pushing that would help you get the job done on time. It would be a race of what gets exhausted first: your energy or the power source of your mower. You need something that you can ride. Something that does the job for you while you seat with convenience with the controls surrounding you. You need riding lawn mowers for your hill.
Riding lawn mowers have an advantage of comfort over the other kinds of lawn mowers. They help you cut whatever you need to cut in no time.
The three categories of riding mowers would help you conquer different terrains with varying degrees of high success. The lawn tractor, for instance, is powerful enough to mow on terrains that are uneven, hilly and filled with obstacles to an extent. However, it does not do well in situations where there are a lot of obstacles as it doesn’t really have a high maneuverability.
The garden tractor is not far off from the lawn tractor. It performs just as well as the lawn tractor or even better. This is because it has a more powerful engine. On the downside, it doesn’t have a high level of maneuverability, just like the lawn tractor.
However, the garden tractor is strong enough to do just more than mowing. You can attach more things, such as a snowblower or a yard vacuum, to it. This versatility makes it a necessary machinery for big gardens.
The last type of riding lawn mower that offers you the best mowing experience in whatever lawn condition is the Zero Turn Mower.
The Zero Turn Mower has it all. It has a high level of maneuverability, enough power to climb up and down hills and uneven terrain, and the ability to mow to perfection. In addition, it can go as fast as 13 MPH and has wide decks so you can spend a little time on the mowing.
The downside of choosing to buy this mower is that it costs a lot. You might also have some storage problems if you don’t have a big enough garage.
Lawn Mower Accessories
Of all lawn mower types, riding mowers are the ones that have the most accessories. These accessories help you have an improved and a more efficient mowing experience for various situations. This only goes to tell how versatile riding mowers can be. The only exceptions are zero turn mowers which aren’t good for anything apart from mowing.
There are many accessories that go with lawn mowers. I couldn’t possibly mention them all here, but here are the most common of them all:
Accessories for the rear
Baggers help you collect grass clippings that would have otherwise been scattered all around as you mow the lawn. They save you a lot of cleaning up stress and time.
There are times when you have a lot of things, heavy or light, to move around in your lawn. Going around on foot to get them could take forever. With dump cart attachments, however, you can just dump whatever needs to be carried in them and drive them to where you want them to be.
Lawn rollers have different uses. They can make the surface of your lawn more compact. They can also level the lawn by flattening molehills, bumps and all sorts. They can also smoothen the lawn before you mow it.
Whatever you intend to use a lawn roller for, it is available as an attachment to lawn tractors.
Accessories for the front
Right from the comfort of your seat, you can do basic things, such as lifting and lowering things on your lawn. All you need is the right scoop attachment.
When the thatch on your lawn is too thick, it can alter the right growth of healthy grass. Dethatchers help to get the thatch to loosen and raise them to the surface of the lawn.
Accessories for winter
Snow throwers help you get rid of snow where you don’t want it. When you have a snowblower attachment for your lawn tractor, your job is way easier.
Tire chains help your tires to get firmer grips on the snow when you are driving on it. You might think you are just fine without them when you are driving on snow, but if you intend to do some heavy-duty jobs, think twice.
There are different covers for different purposes. There are seat covers and there are even covers for the whole tractor itself.
Lawn mowers make noise. It is always good that you use hearing protectors to keep your hearing intact,
Choosing the right lawn mower repair service
Many lawn mower owners do not know how to carry out basic routine maintenance on their machine, but it’s okay. That is why there are repair services all around. But how do you know the right repair service to turn to?
Manufacturers often recommend repair services
These recommended repair services must have been tested and found to be reliable by the manufacturers of the mowers themselves. It is always good to check out these recommended repair services.
Try to get repair services that offer insurance
Sometimes, the mowers develop some new faults while servicing or repairing them. If you invited a repair service that offered no insurance, you would have to cover the cost for the whole repair on your own. Repair services that offer insurance would compensate you for any additional damages incurred during repair or maintenance.
Are lawn mowers waterproof?
Lawn mowers, just like almost any other machine, are not completely waterproof. The closest any machine gets to being waterproof is being water-resistant, and that includes your lawn mower.
While the mower can withstand a bit of raining on, always try to avoid situations where it would get soaked with water. If it’s a slight rain you are worried about, your mower should be able to handle that. If it is a wet grass you’re trying to mow, be cautious. But if it is a soaked grass you want to mow, it would be better if you just waited.
Does this then mean you can’t clean a lawn mower with water? Absolutely not.
Can lawn mowers damage hearing?
When you continuously expose your ear to sounds louder than 85 dB, you are at risk of suffering a hearing loss. It’s a fact, not a guess.
Electric lawn mowers often have mostly silent engines but noisy blades. These blades can crank up the noise to up to 75 or 80 dB. If you ask me, that is close enough to the 85 dB mark. Gas-powered mowers are even louder, so let’s not even get started on them.
In view of all these, it is recommended that you use hearing protection when you’re mowing. You want to be safe, not sorry.
How do lawn mowers work?
Lawn mowers are very simple machines. Whatever power source you use for your mower is mostly in charge of either getting the blades or the reels to turn.
Rotary mowers have blades that rotate at high speeds. When they hit the blades of grass at this speed, they cut them. A reel mower has a cutting blade and a reel of blades. The reel blades cut the grass against the cutting blades.
How often should I service your lawn mower?
Servicing your lawn mower helps keep it in good working condition. Try to service the mower once or twice in a year and you are good to go.
Why is my lawn mower smoking?
The most common thing that causes your mower to give out sooty smoke is when there is incomplete combustion in the engine. Let me help you understand the combustion thing a little better.
Your gas needs the right amount of oxygen to burn. When there is a right mix of air and gas, there is complete combustion. Otherwise, there isn’t. Usually, the sooty smoke goes away on its own. If it doesn’t, try to wash or replace your air filter. You can check the manual of the mower to see how to do this.
If the mower doesn’t stop smoking, however, call a professional in to repair it or you risk damaging your engine.
Is it better to leave grass clippings or bag them?
Some people do not mind leaving their grass clippings on the lawn without bagging them. There is nothing wrong about this, especially if the grass clippings are short. However, if the grass clippings are long and much, it is a good practice to bag them. This is because when dead grass is left on the lawn, it may alter the growth of the healthy grass underneath.
Are zero turn mowers better than garden tractors?
It mostly depends on the uses. While a zero turn mower is not good for anything else that isn’t mowing, lawn tractors still have more versatile uses. You can add attachments to lawn tractors to make them do other things. Zero-turn mowers cannot withstand the extra weight of attachments.
However, zero turn mower offers you a more efficient mowing experience as it has a high maneuverability that the lawn tractor cannot boast of. If all you want is to mow and nothing more, the zero-turn mower is your guy. If you still want to do your snow plowing, yard vacuuming, and all sorts, all with one machine, the lawn tractor is your guy.
Does frequent mowing help thicken the grass?
Mowing your grass properly and frequently could aid grass growth.
Sarah Eberle qualified and became a member of the Landscape Institute in 1980. Over the last 26 years she has practised landscape architecture and garden design, running her own business in Devon.
During the 1990s, Sarah joined Hillier Landscapes as Design Director, where she is still a shareholder but also runs her own practice in Hampshire.
Sarah has an esteemed record in RHS shows, having won eight Gold medals, Best in Show and the George Cook award for innovation twice at Hampton Court. Sarah has also exhibited at Tatton Park and BBC Gardeners’ World Live.