Your lawn serves so many purposes. It is a beautiful indicator to passersby of the care you take with your property. It is a soft and lovely, stages of rehabilitation place for the whole family to play. And, unlike unattractive hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt, grass can help to decrease noise pollution, clean the air, reduce temperatures, trap carbon dioxide, improve soil, and reduce erosion from storm water runoff. The most important tool for protecting that incredible resource is the right lawn mower. That can mean a lot of different things depending on your particular lawn. But fear not – we have all the info you need to narrow down your choice, plus reviews of 12 great products. The best lawn mower for you is little more than a click away!
Types of Mower
There are two basic types of push mower: reel and rotary. Then, of course, there are riding lawn mowers that can be categorized as lawn, garden, or zero turn mowers. Finally, a relatively new entry to the market is the robot mower that works much like a robot vacuum.
Reel mowers usually don’t have motors and their blades turn in response to pushing the mower across the lawn. Reel mowers have blades that come together to clip like scissors. They are basic and very lightweight machines with no complex mechanical parts to break down. With no need for an external power source, reel mowers are also extremely environmentally friendly.
The downside to a reel mower is that it has no ability to bag the grass clippings, so you either have to rake afterwards or let the clippings remain on the lawn. They can also be tiring to use as there is no force behind the cut other than what you put in. When grass has gotten long or thick, even more effort is required.
Rotary mowers use a fuel source to power spinning blades – power could come from gas, electric, or battery power. They are much better able than reel mowers to cut through dense vegetation and crunch up twigs in their path. Rotary mowers are more likely to have a grass collection bag, too. Though some people swear that the quality of the cut is much cleaner with a reel mower, if you have any significant amount of land to mow, you’ll want a rotary model.
Many rotary mowers are also self-propelled, meaning that they have a drive wheel that turns and moves the mower without the user needing to push. This can save a ton of energy! Self-propelled mowers may power the front wheels, rear wheels, or all wheels.
Lawn tractors are smaller and lighter, but that can be okay if you need to navigate around a lot of tight landscaping. Garden tractors are larger and heavier, which is great if you have a huge lawn or will need to do additional tasks like tilling or cultivating.
Zero turn mowers, on the other hand, are sleek, high-performance machines that power through mowing at up to 8 mph and can turn on a dime. They can ultimately save you time in mowing, but there is a learning curve to successfully navigating one. Zero turn mowers are also more expensive, and usually cannot be used to tow attachments because they have delicate hydrostatic motors.
Gas, Battery, or None
For this, it is really a matter of personal choice. Reel mowers are completely man powered, relying on you to push them through the grass. Since they are very light, this isn’t so difficult, but it can be tricky if the grass is high.
Gas powered mowers are the most common. They can run a lot longer than a battery-powered mower between “fill-ups”. Gas mowers also cut just as well when the gas tank is almost empty as they do when the tank is full. However, gas mowers are really loud when they’re running and release a great deal of exhaust.
Battery-powered mowers are more environmentally friendly. They don’t have any emissions and run much more quietly than gas-powered models. However, battery life isn’t likely to exceed an hour before you’ll need to recharge, and the cutting power may diminish as the battery nears empty.
Gas mowers are usually heavier and will need a careful mix of oil and ethanol-free gas to run. Battery-powered mowers don’t need any extra supplies, but we do recommend purchasing a secondary battery in case you run out of juice in the middle of the job.
Other Factors to Consider
The cutting deck refers to how large an area of grass will be cut on a single pass and stages of rehabilitation. The larger your yard, the larger you want your cutting deck to be, so you can get the job done in as few passes as possible. However, if you have a lot of landscaping or other obstacles in your yard, a smaller cutting deck allows for easier navigation around them.
Ergonomic features are those that don’t contribute to the basic function of the machine, but keep users safe and comfortable.
Padded steering wheel
The vibrations that you feel in your hands and arms while mowing can eventually cause numbness. Over time, it can even lead to permanent nerve damage. A padded wheel reduces the amount of vibration taken by your hands and wrists.
Full suspension seats
Unless your lawn is perfectly flat, you will experience some bumps and jolts as you mow. A suspension seat helps absorb the shock of those bumps and prevent back and neck pain.
High, padded seat backs
Some riding lawn mowers have seats that are little more than a platform to perch on. If you choose one with a high seat back and arm rests, you will have much better stability upon the mower. If the whole seat is thickly padded, that adds a great deal to your comfort.
Now, shall we go shopping?
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.