3 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Lawn Mower

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Lawn mowing season is coming. Do you have the right mower for your lawn?

New mowers are quite an investment. Many considerations are involved in choosing the right machine for your landscape. Here are 3 major mistakes to avoid when buying a new lawn mower:

1. Getting the power wrong

2. Estimating the size of your land incorrectly

3. Ignoring Municipal code

Power options: Know your mowers

There are basically four types of mowers: ride-on, walk-behind engine, walk-behind manual, and tow. Walk-behind gas-fueled engine mowers and walk-behind (battery or corded) electric mowers usually are self-propelled but can be push mowers. Manual (i.e. non-engine) mowers are walk-behind hand-push mowers or tractor-pulled tow mowers.

Cutting blades either rotate north to south (vertically) or east to west (vertically). Reels, found in hand-push manual and tow mowers, are vertically rotating blades that cut grass like a pair of scissors would. Many lawnscaping enthusiasts like the fine chop the reel blades make, cutting the grass so it breaks down and mulches well. Rotary mowers, found in engine mowers, have one or two blades that rotate quickly to chop the grass. A rotary machine typically has a sucking action that pulls the blades upward.

Estimating the size of the job: Know your area and maybe go pro

Know your landscape

Some landscapes are so large only a rider or tow mower will do. Professionals should probably be called in for large landscapes. Lawn maintenance is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Is your lawn small enough to be a one-person job? Many homeowners with medium-to-large size lawns hire professional landscapers to mow their grass. Although this is likely to be more expensive than doing it oneself (assuming the homeowner owns a lawn mower and other machines like weed-wackers and edgers), professionals are efficient and are well-versed in the knowledge of lawn care and the rules of your particular municipality (more on this later). Get some recommendations from your neighbors. Professional help for your grass cutting may be more affordable than you think, especially given the time and energy required to do the job right.

Medium and small lawns lend for more options. A self-propelling mower with an engine is a good idea for any lawn bigger than a few hundred square feet. Human-powered cutters can be just as expensive and require a lot of physical endurance, but small lawns may benefit from the precise cuts they offer. The homeowner may benefit from the exercise, too. There are non-self-propelling engine mowers but they may not be easy to find and may be a bit difficult to maneuver, especially in thick or high grass situations.

Knowing your grass type is also important in choosing a mower type. Fast and high-growing grass would be difficult to manage with a hand-push mower. Some owners use a combination of a gas-powered, self-propelling mower for the high grass and the human-powered mower for maintenance. Don’t forget upkeep and maintenance of the mower itself. Frequent blade and engine maintenance are necessary for any mower and will vary according to your machine. The health of your mower is also dependent on keeping it safe from the elements. Set aside sufficient indoor storage, like in a garage or shed, for any mower.

Municipal rules: Know the yard waste regulations

According to recent estimates, about half of US states have enacted a ban on yard waste. The EPA defines yard waste as “The part of solid waste composed of grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches, and other garden refuse.” If you are going the DIY route with your grass, get familiar with your municipality’s rules on yard waste disposal. The safest bet is to have the grass clippings mulch back into the lawn. Many different mower models can provide the kind of cut that facilitates this. Search on terms like “grasscycling” or “mulching” when looking for mowers.

A note about safety

Lawn-mowing isn’t a job for children, despite what you see in the movies. Children should be well away from any mowing activity. While virtually all new mowers come with safety features, there are still risks involved. The blades are sharp. The rotary action may shoot out objects at high speeds despite the safety shields. Engines require a good bit of know-how for maintenance (i.e. get a professional to do this step). Gas can ignite. Electricity can shock. Using mowers can be physically tricky, especially around slopes, walkways, stepping stones and garden edges. If you have small children or pets, take special care to keep them safe and away from mowers or any other dangerous equipment.