Reel Lawn Mowers – Are They Right for You?

For many home owners, reel lawn mowers, also known as push mowers, are making a comeback as their first choice for cutting their lawns. There are a number of good reasons for this.

Probably the first consideration for people is the low environmental impact reel lawn mowers have compared to gas powered or even electric mowers. Gas mowers cause a surprising amount of pollutants, in terms of noise, as well as gas and oil used and spilled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces as many volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour! They estimate that over 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. In addition to groundwater contamination, spilled fuel that evaporates into the air and volatile organic compounds spit out by small engines make smog-forming ozone when cooked by heat and sunlight. Gas mowers are estimated to produce about 5% of the nation’s total pollution.

Owners of reel mowers really like that they are so quiet that they can mow their lawns in the cool of the early morning, or late evening without disturbing their neighbours.

Reel mowers are much easier on the pocketbook. When doing the calculations, people find that the return on their investment happens at about 6 months after purchasing the reel mower. With the price of gas so high and rising steadily, the break-even point is coming more and more quickly.

As well, reel mowers are safer, and are lower maintenance than other types of mowers. The reel cannot throw small objects such as rocks or sticks like a gas or electric powered mower can. This means you can mow with peace of mind even while your children or pets are playing around the lawn. You are also highly unlikely to catch a finger or toe in the reel and cause any severe injury like you would with the gas or electric mowers.

Reel mowers provide a nicer cut than rotary mowers as the grass blades are cut like scissors instead of being torn. This means your lawn will be more even, the grass blades will be healthier and you will avoid brown tips. All of this combines to a greener, healthier looking lawn.

People generally also choose these types of mowers to get some exercise. Getting out in the fresh air and pushing the mower around is a great way to reconnect with nature while getting some light and exercise. owners report that using a reel mower actually doesn’t take any more time than when they were using their gas mower, mainly because of the lighter weight of the reel mower.

There are a few disadvantages to reel mowers. The most obvious being that you have to push them! This in itself is not a drawback if you cut your lawn about once weekly. However if you let your lawn grow longer you may find it quite hard to push your mower through the tall grass.

Reel mowers cannot cut up or mulch small twigs so you will need to either check or rake your lawn prior to cutting or know that you will need to manually remove them from the blades. A small twig will catch in the blades and stop the reel dead.

You may need to make several passes over some areas and reel mowers don’t always get the tall, stalky weeds the first time around. Because of this reason, the cut will not be as exact as a gas mower. If you have a significant number of weeds in your lawn, this may cause frustration, especially if you would like a perfect cut first time around.

Discharging grass clippings on to the lawn is often listed as a disadvantage to reel mowers. However, we would disagree with this assessment, as leaving the clippings on your lawn allows you to mulch your lawn at the same time as you mow. To mulch well, clipping size needs to be small, so again, this works best if you mow your lawn regularly. If you don’t, or prefer to collect your clippings, some models also have a grass catcher that comes with it, or can be bought separately.

Reel mowers are hard to push through tall grass. If your grass is extremely tall the first time you mow it, you are going to have a hard time. From then on, it will be easier but only if you mow regularly. If you prefer to only mow every few weeks then a reel mower will not likely work for you.

All in all, we think reel mowers are a great choice for many reasons, but they aren’t for everyone. If you understand and are content with the basic limitations of reel lawn mowers, then the next step is to read reviews and recommendations to find which is the best reel lawn mower for you. The environment and your heart will thank you.

One thought on “Reel Lawn Mowers – Are They Right for You?

  1. Silas Post authorReply

    Photograph green, healthy lawn, different lawnmower blade and compare it to one that has damaged ends and you’ll be able to see the differences. The turf that is damaged is more prone to turf diseases because the frayed edges create openings for pathogens that can harm like a variety of fungi.

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