There are 80 million home lawns in the country and, therefore, a lot of people who need lawn mowers.
How you choose among rotary, reel and electric models has to do with your situation and preferences, says Alec Kowalewski, Oregon State University Extension turfgrass specialist.
Rotary and electric mowers, which have one blade, cut with the blade spinning in a circle. Reel (push) mowers are designed with two blades that slide across each other and cut like scissors.
Alec says both do a good job.
“The reel mower is going to be a cleaner cut,” he says. “But that doesn’t have that big of an effect on grass. It takes a really dull rotary mower to make much of a difference. A sharp rotary mower will produce just as good of grass as a reel mower.”
The lesson is to keep mower blades sharp, no matter the type. Rotary blades are easier to maintain because the blades detach. Reel mowers don’t have removable blades, so they must be taken to a professional for sharpening.
Mulching mowers, which tend to be more expensive than others, cut grass into smaller pieces than nonmulching mowers, which makes leaving clippings behind an easy task. But any mower will do the same if the lawn is cut often and left tall.
“Instead of bagging up clippings, consider leaving them where they fall,” Alec says. “They break down quickly and resupply much-needed nitrogen. The more often you mow, the easier this is to do. Don’t, however, leave clumps of clippings sitting on the lawn.”
When you buy a mower, Alec recommends researching and buying the best you can afford. See if the brand you are considering has a commercial version. That quality translates to homeowner models.
Mower Factors to Consider
- Sturdy machines last a long time.
- Go over the top of leaves and small twigs.
- Can mow quickly, especially self-propelled models.
- Easier to use in large areas.
- Produce some carbon dioxide.
- Can’t get down to a low mowing height.
- If carbon emissions are a concern, reel mowers are the way to go. However, studies show grass can sequester up to four times the amount of carbon dioxide produced by mowing. All plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and use it for new growth.
- Harder to push, though newer models are much lighter and easier to handle than older ones.
- Don’t go over twigs and leaves well.
- Not good for uneven terrain.
- Not effective for large lawns.
- Moderately quiet.
- No need to deal with gas and oil.
- Only operate a limited time before the battery dies on a battery-operated model.
- Must deal with cords on plug-in models.
For more information, go to https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/lawn