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FAQ: Lawn Mowers

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 18 Sep 2017 | comments*Discuss
Lawn Lawn Mower Cylinder Rotary Hover

If you’ve got a lawn, you’re going to need a lawn mower, but with the large number of sizes, designs and prices available, choosing the right one isn’t always easy. Ask yourself a few questions about the type of grass you have, the general nature of the land and how you want to use your lawn and you should find making that all important choice much more straightforward.

How Does the Size and Shape of My Lawn Affect the Sort of Mower I Buy?

Although it’s something you see quite often in older gardening books, how big a lawn you have to cut no longer plays as large a part in influencing the sort of mower you buy as it once did. In the days when powered mowers were expensive and cumbersome pieces of kit, only larger lawns really justified having one; today, the ready availability of cheap, light electric mowers has changed that view. Owners of the small garden may still wish to use hand-pushed mowers, of course, but they’re no longer the only option!

The shape and design of your grassed area, however, makes a big difference. For simple, straight-sided shapes with few if any obstacles such as trees or island-beds in its midst, you can safely opt for the largest lawn-mower you can afford, manage and find room for, since it will make the job of cutting the grass relatively quick and easy – and should give the best results. If your lawn is very small, irregularly shaped, or home to isolated flower beds, plants and other features, manoeuvrability becomes the key to mowing – so look at smaller, lighter models to get the most ease of handling.

Petrol, Electric or Hand-Power; Which One Should I Choose?

A lot of the choice comes down to circumstance and there’s probably a model available of all three kinds which is likely to be suitable for every garden. For gardens which have no easy access to power – or where the grass to be cut lies too far away from the house to run a cable – petrol mowers come into their own, although rechargeable, battery-driven electric mowers are becoming increasingly popular.

Electric mowers are a very popular choice with the majority of modern gardeners, offering the advantage of clean and easy power-mowing at an affordable price; there’s nothing quite like them for straightforward convenience and they generally tend to be lighter than their petrol counterparts.

Of course, if you want the exercise or you’re simply trying to avoid burning any energy – except your own, of course – then hand mowers have their place, particularly in gardens under about 60 square metres (660 square feet).

Hover, Rotary or Cylinder – Which is Best?

It’s really a case of “horses for courses” and it largely depends on the type of grass, the lie of the land and the kind of finish you want to achieve.

Hover mowers are definitely best at coping with rough lawns made up of coarser varieties of grass, especially if the underlying ground is fairly uneven; the finish won’t be perfect, but it’s the ideal way to tame an untidy patch of grass.

Cylinder mowers are by far the best when it comes to a great finish, producing the neatest, shortest and cleanest cut of all, which makes them ideal for the best quality lawns – a good rear roller being essential to get that striped look. They are ideal for regular mowing, but do not cope well if the grass is allowed to get too long.

Rotary mowers fit pretty much in-between – ideal for lawns which may be a little uneven or slightly overgrown, but they won’t give you the perfect bowling green finish.

What About the Clippings?

For the best results, pick a lawn mower that has some sort of a box or a collection system to gather up the clippings. Leaving them on the lawn looks unsightly, but it can also cause damage to the grass itself, so they really shouldn’t be allowed to remain after mowing – and as anyone who has ever done it will testify, raking them up is a laborious job, to say the least!

The traditional front-mounted box typically found on cylinder mowers tends to be the most efficient at the task, though many rotary designs incorporate a rear mounted one, which is pretty effective, though often prone to being dislodged on uneven ground. Small hover mowers generally don’t offer grass collection, although some larger models do – though opinions seem to vary amongst their users as to how well they do the job.

Mowing takes up more time over the year than any other part of lawn-maintenance and recent research has confirmed the age-old suspicion that it plays an important part in determining the overall quality and make-up of the turf itself. If you’re going to spend so much of your free time on something so important, you might as well make sure you get the very best tool for the job!

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@graham - Have you thought of getting someone like Green Thumb in to treat your lawn. They can spot all the diseases etc and give you the best advice. If you are very particular about your lawn - it might be worth paying for specific advice. But it may also be your mower, rotary mowers do not leave as fine a cut as cylinders because the blades rotate parallel to the surface of the lawn. Cylinder mowers on the other hand, give a closer cut because blades are closer together and spin downwards toward the grass giving a much closer cut. A rotary mower might be too gentle for your particular lawn.
Col455 - 19-Sep-17 @ 10:37 AM
I have a lawn that was 1st laid down some 22 years ago and it is on 2 levels with a slope between. It covers approximately 25m x 15m and consists of long and tough grasses with virtually no weeds. I have a 2 year old Webb petrol 16" rotary mower with a box and a roller and I cut sometimes twice a week in the season from March to November, and as we live in Cornwall and do not get much frost, it also gets cut in winter. Last autumn, I raked and spiked it thoroughly using a Mountfield electric lawn rake . The result was good to start with but as the summer has progressed the grass seems to be very spongey and curls round to make it hard to cut. If I cut it short I get brown grassand the green part only seems about 1" long. I always cut when the grass is dry and clean the blade after use, in case it is not cutting properly, but that doesn't appear to help. I have fed the grass with Fisons evergreen and weed and feed, but never more than once per season. Can you help me to solve this as the lawn is just like walking on a mattress!!
graham - 18-Sep-17 @ 9:30 AM
How much grass is likely to miss the collector box on a push cylinder mower and how high will it go used on a downsloping lawn?
Frank Larner - 10-Aug-11 @ 9:01 PM
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