Monday, August 10, 2009

Going Green With A "Reel" Lawnmower

I recently found myself in need of a new lawnmower when the body on my gas powered mower started falling apart. I've been using a rechargeable weed whacker for a couple of years now with good results. I was hopeful that I might be able to switch to using a rechargeable lawnmower as well but after reading a number of customer reviews I decided that the price, performance, and durability of the rechargeable lawnmowers didn't fit my current needs.

Then another thought came to mind. Do they still make those old-fashioned manual push mowers? I soon discovered that not only do they still make them but there are a lot of people who enjoy using them. Not all of the reviews were great. The biggest complaint was that the manual reel mowers aren't good at cutting weeds, overgrown grass, and certain varieties of grass. I am not overly fussy about my lawn so I decided it would be worth a try.

I chose the
Scott's 20" Classic Push Reel Mower. This lawnmower had overall favorable reviews and was readily available at Home Depot at a discounted price. There were other more expensive brands available online but I went with the Scott's because it was a more convenient choice for me.

I've already used it several times to cut my grass and here is what I found so far:

On the plus side:

  • It is much quieter than a gas mower. My neighbors will benefit from this too.

  • It is easier to just stop and take a break while you are doing the lawn. You don't need to worry about restarting it.

  • I like knowing that I'm getting some exercise while mowing the lawn. It doesn't seem any more difficult than pushing a gas mower (without the self-propel feature).

  • You don't have to deal with any gas, oil, or spark plugs.

  • There are no dirty exhaust fumes . Using a gas lawn mower for an hour is equivalent to driving a car 100-200 miles depending on which report you read.

  • They do a nice job of cutting grass, not perfect, but good.

  • They take up less storage area and only weigh much less.

  • They are less expensive than most gas or electric models.
  • They are safer to operate and you don't have to hear that loud cracking sound when you run over a rock.

Some of the drawbacks are:

  • It is more likely to miss a patch of grass here and there. You may need to go over some spots a second time or touch up an area with the weed whacker.

  • I don't know anything about the different varieties of grass but I noticed I have some grass mixed in my lawn that is soft and flimsy like corn silk. That type of grass doesn't cut as well.

  • The mower can get jammed up if you run over an area that has a lot of small sticks. You will have to find them and remove them. This happened to me a couple of times but has not been a big problem. I just roll the blade backwards a little with my foot. That is one thing that I will miss about the gas mower. I was able to run over every stick and leaf

  • The lawnmower has to be adjusted as the blades wear down. The blades need to be sharpened ever couple of years. A $12 sharpening kit can be purchased or you can just pay someone to do it.

  • I need to cut grass at least once a week now. With a gas mower, I was able to get away with mowing less frequently if I wanted to.

  • It does not cut as close to areas like your foundation or hedges.
  • It is probably best for modest sized lawns of less than half an acre (my lot is .38 acres).

I really enjoy using this new mower. I like the simplicity of the design and the quiet operation. When I was using a gas mower I felt like a lawn zombie cutting the grass. I feel much more of a connection with what I'm doing while using the manual mower. If you need a new lawnmower and you aren't a lawn perfectionist, consider trying a manual reel mower.

23 comments:

Kim said...

Count me in as one who uses it too Larry. I do have 3/4's of an acre of land though so I my oldest son does most of it and I do it around my herb garden, bird feeding stations and other spots I prefer it on. The only thing I can't stand is when a twig gets stuck in between the blade and the darn thing locks up on you. Love how much more control you have when operating it though.

You will like it now, but don't try it on muggy days when its killer!!

Larry said...

Kim-I resorted to picking up the twigs in my backyard which is something I've never had to bother with.-Instead of doing the whole yard at once on muggy days I will do the front and back yard on seperate days.

Christine said...

My family had one of those a long time ago. As long as it doesn't get rusty, it will be good. My family's basement is very musty, so it got rusty. I want to get one of those whenever I get a lawn again.

Jayne said...

I am impressed Larry! I remember my grandfather mowing with one of these, but it was much bulkier and heavy and hard to push. Glad you have found this to be a good alternative.

Andy said...

Not me, I find the older I get, I like modern power!

Larry said...

Christine-I'm keeping mine in the garage where it's dry and spraying it with silicone.

Andy-Hopefully by the time I get older they will have perfected the rechargeable ones so that they are as powerful as the gas ones. Maybe they'll even be solar powered.

dAwN said...

Awesome! I remember using one of those mowers when I was a kid. I bet they are so much better now!
If i had a lawn..that is what I would use for sure..
though, I think I would have the smallest lawn possible. :)

Jochen said...

The silence aspect is a real winner. Although I can't really have a firm opinion as I don't have a lawn...

Ruth said...

We just bought our daughter one for her new home and it works well. It is all we ever had when I was growing up. We have a large lot and I do not begrudge my husband a power mower, especially when I never have to cut the grass.

Larry said...

dawn-Maybe you could bring one along for your travels and give free demos in each state!

Jochen-I noticed one brand that was manufactured in Germany which seemed to be more advanced.

Ruth-It would be tough to keep up with a large lot using one of these.

RuthieJ said...

I remember my Grandpa in Chicago had one of these and us kids would fight over who got to mow his lawn when we visited each summer.
Good for you Larry! Helping to save the environment and getting good exercise is a win-win!

Jochen said...

Larry - lawns (or properties in general) are usually quite small in Germany, so it makes sense to go "off-power". And then of course if your lawn is in the centre of a settlement, there are rather strict regulations when to mow them and when not to due to the noise, which is another advantage of the manual one: more flexibility.

Kelly said...

...my grandpa used to use one of these, and I always loved listening to the blades. This is the way to go...not too fond of the sound and smell of gas lawn mowers!

Larry said...

Ruthie j & Kelly-Who would have known that your Grandpas were ahead of their time?

troutbirder said...

That a good idea. I'm heading in that direction by converting most of my grassy areas to woodland flower gardens. The goal is to recreate naturalistic settings on about an acre thereby reducing mowing, fertilizing,weeding et all!

Crafty Green Poet said...

they always seem the better option to me...good review...

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on the green alternative! Unfortunately we couldn't do that here, as the summer's just too brutal (& our yard perhaps a tad too large.) Fortunately we have a guy that cuts it--young & local, probably much more used to the summer heat & humidity than either of us are! Best of luck with your new cutting regime.

matthew houskeeper said...

Nice move!!!
I for one have really tired of listening to lawnmowers, leafblowers, and weedwhackers going all the time.

Texas Travelers said...

Interesting post. something to consider. I had an old Sears reel mower that cut grass like a golf course green. It was great.

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Kathiesbirds said...

Good for you and the environment! It would be my choice if I had any grass!

BirdingGirl said...

Hey Larry- I love this post about the push mower. Congrats on your new purchase! I think it's a great concept, although I'm sure the brand new ones work better than the old ones. Our rental house came with one so I got to try one for the first time since childhood. Our lease stipulates that the tenant must mow the lawn. Technically our landlord provided us with a mower, but there's no way you could mow a 1-acre lawn with an antique push mower- we tried! haha Needless to say we got a hand-me-down gas mower that works much better...

fern said...

If you ever get tired of your reel mower, please reconsider the rechargeable mowers.

I'm on my 3rd season with a black and decker rechargeable model and i'm quite happy with. Please note: I have 1.5 acres to mow! The charge lasts about 40 minutes, but to be honest, that's about all the mowing i can do at one time anyway. So i do the front yard one day, the back yard the next, and it's worked out just fine.

I also have a battery rechargeable trimmer and both these lawn appliances were some of my best buys ever!

Larry said...

Fern-I will consider a rechargeable in the future.I'm done with gas mowers.