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Walk-behind, Push Mowers

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Walk-behind, Push Mowers

Rotary mower with mulching attachment

photo © Kelly Burke

A lawn mower may be the most important tool in your lawn care arsenal and it is certainly the most used. Most lawns are mowed with a walk behind, push mower, either rotary or reel. When choosing a mower, consider the size of your lawn, your budget and the terrain of your yard.

Walk behind mowers can be reel-type or rotary, each having their own benefits and limitations.


Reel Mowers

Reel mowers are the purist's choice mainly due to their superior cut, infrequent maintenance and lack of engine(resulting in zero emissions). Reel mowers cut grass with spinning, spiral, horizontal blades passing by a stationary knife creating a shearing effect. Home-owner reel mowers are entirely push powered with the reel and wheels geared together. Current models weigh much less than the bulky mowers of the past but the design is essentially the same. The main drawback is that lawns mowed with reel mowers need to be cut on a regular schedule since they tend to push down grass that is too long. They are ideal for small, level lawns, but can be inconvenient on slopes and larger properties.

Rotary Mowers

Rotary mowers have all but eliminated the use of reel mowers due to their convenience and versatility. Rotary mowers cut grass with a spinning blade powered by an engine. They can be self propelled or pushed by hand and driven by electricity, gas or battery-pack. Rotary mowers can cut at a wide range of heights so grass can be left to grow long if need be. Rotary blades need to be kept sharp to ensure the best quality of cut. Collection systems can be attached to remove the clippings from the lawn or rotary mowers can come equipped with mulching kits to finely chop the clippings and return them to the lawn.

Attachments are also available to create striping, similar to that on ball fields and golf courses. Some rotary mowers have oversize rear tires to ease the pushing and provide better control.

Prices vary greatly with any type of mower, usually in conjunction with quality. Try to find the right mower for your needs and try to buy it on sale or slightly used. A good quality mower should last 10-15 years if maintained properly.

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