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HOMELawn Care Articles

Lawn Mowers & Lawn Mower Maintenance
by Wes Yohey Ground level photograph of lawn grass with a dark background.

The first lawn care product a homeowner will likely consider is the lawnmower. There are three general categories of lawn mowers: riding, reel and powered push mowers. The size of your lawn, your individual physical capabilities and, of course, personal preference impacts the type of mower you will likely choose. In the push mower category, the rotary is the most popular model, but the reel has a number of advantages of which the average home owner may not be aware. Folks with larger lots might consider a tractor or riding rotary mower to significantly reduce the amount of time and labor.

Rotary Lawn Mowers Grass level view of approaching rotary lawn mower
Hands down the rotary is the most popular model of lawn mower. This suburban mainstay is gas or electric powered and uses a rotating steel blade to do the cutting. The rotating blade creates a vacuum under the housing which lifts the blades of grass for a more uniform cut.

Numerous styles, shapes and sizes are available depending on personal preference and lawn considerations. One of the more recent developments (in lawn mower terms) is the mulching rotary mower.

Mulching mowers are designed to keep clippings under the blade housing for an extended period of time during the cutting process to cut clippings into smaller and smaller pieces. Manufacturers also refined the cutting blade to create higher lift and features an expanded cutting edge to enhance re-trimming of the clippings. Smaller grass clippings will work down into the soil level quicker and block less sun light.

Riding Mowers
Riding mowers are the Cadillac of our category here. The engine-driven mower with a large cutting blade and comfy command chair and you are mowing down acres of grass in no time.

If you would like to perform more functions than lawn mowing, consider a garden tractor or a higher power riding mower. The garden tractor provides greater power for the heavy duty projects. Attachments for both models can greatly expand your tractor's functionality.

Reel Lawn Mowers
Looking down at blades of reel lawn mower The reel lawn mower utilizes rotating steel blades that cut grass with multiple scissor-like operations powered by the rotation of the mower's wheels.

A reel lawn mower has numerous benefits over its motor-powered cousin. First, it’s better for the grass. Reel mowers provide a clean cutting action on the grass blades that provide a cleaner cut and quicker recovery time. Other benefits to reel mowers include:

• Lower maintenance costs
• Lower operating costs
• Lower purchasing cost
• Eliminate air born pollutants
• Eliminate noise pollution

As great as that is, reel mowers do have a few detractions: They require more physical effort and increase the average mowing time compared to rotary mowers (this detraction was listed first because some folks might regard the workout as an additional benefit).

Reel mowers have difficulty with tall grass, so extended stays away from the home or even just normal weather patterns require a regimented commitment or a really good back-up plan.

Instead of the smash ‘em to smithereens method of the rotary mowers, sticks and twigs can jam up in the blades of a reel mower. While not particularly good for any mowing blades, the thinner reel blades are more vulnerable to damage.

Maintenance for reel mowers include general lubrication, cleaning and, under normal usage conditions, the blades will need to be sharpened.

Proper maintenance extends your mower's life and ensures peak operating performance.

After running over rocks, sticks, toys and the occasional blade of grass, the blades of any mower will become dull quickly. Although still able to cut grass, the cuts are more of a tear which discolors your lawn and promotes diseases.

Mower blades should be sharpened on a regular basis throughout the year but can depend on many factors including, lawn size, growth rate and even regional demands. For an average suburban lawn, the mower blade should be sharpened after every 10-15 cuts. A second blade may be convenient for a quick switch-out or for an emergency.

Engine-driven mowers require a few additional maintenance procedures for maximum performance. Just like your vehicle engine, make sure to maintain proper oil levels, and every 3-5 years, a new spark plug may be in order. Of course, always follow your manufacturers recommended maintenance instructions for best results.

Share your lawn mower experience or if you'd like more information.