You’ve probably seen these simple lawn tools before and wondered if a reel mower really works. Quiet and emission-free, they are a great alternative to the noisier, motorized mowers that are on the market while also being healthier for you, your family, and the environment. But before you go out and buy your first reel mower, let’s look at how effective these manual models really are. Reel mowers are designed with two or four wheels and feature a cutting reel that has between 3 to 7 blades and a bed knife.
As you push the mower forward, the mower blades spin vertically, lifting grass blades between themselves and the bed knife. This movement allows the reel mower to clip grass with a scissor-like snipping action. The major benefit of this type of cutting is that it doesn’t damage your lawn like a rotary mower would. Rotary mowers mow the lawn with a tearing motion that hurts individual blades of grass.
The snipping performed by a reel mower is more beneficial to your lawn’s health compared to a rotary model’s tearing action because it allows grass to retain more of its natural moisture and be more resistant to disease and insects. A reel mower is also great for anyone looking for an option that is more economical and requires less upkeep. They cost less than most gas or electric mowers on the market, ranging from between $70 to just over $200. Better yet, they have no operational cost since they don’t require you to pay for fuel, oil, replacement parts, or electricity.
And since the only upkeep involved with these models is sharpening the blades around once a year, they are practically maintenance free. The final benefit of reel mowers is that, since they don’t have a motor, they are practically silent, eliminating the noise pollution that gas or electric models produce. And since they don’t run on gas, they are emission-free, producing no harmful fumes that can effect the environment or your loved ones.
The main drawback of these models is that, while they are significantly lighter than their motorized counterparts, they still require you to push them across your lawn. For this reason, they’re best suited for small yards, as well as medium lawns. While they’re capable of tackling a large property, it’s simply not practical since it will take a considerable amount of time and effort to mow a lawn that measures much more than 3,000 square feet.
Can you Cut Tall Grass with a Reel Mower?
While reel mowers are a fantastic alternative to gas or electric mowers, the one area where they don’t match up is in their ability to tackle tall grass. These models are best suited for regular maintenance of lawns that don’t measure more than 4”. But you don’t have to worry if you need to cut a lawn that is taller than 4” once in a while. With a little extra time and some technique, you can use a reel mower to tackle an overgrown yard.
The first thing you’ll need to do when mowing tall grass with a manual reel mower is increase the size of your overlap. As you mow, you’ll be making a path with your mower across your lawn. Once you reach the end of that section of your yard, you’ll turn the mower around and begin mowing a path right next to your first row while walking in the opposite direction. To overlap, you’ll simply make sure that the second path you’re making overlaps the first row by a few inches.
This will allow you to catch tall strips of grass that might have been missed by the end of your tool. The second thing you’ll need to do is perform one of two movements. The first is to simply repeat each path. When you get to the end of your row, turn your mower around and mow the same path while walking in the opposite direction. The other technique is to work in a checkerboard pattern. This means that you will mow each section of your yard as you normally would but, once you’re finished, you’ll mow it perpendicularly.
This means that instead of working left and right like you did on your first round, you’ll be mowing down and up. This will create a crisscrossing pattern, or checkerboard. By using either of these techniques, not only will you be hitting each section of your lawn twice, you’ll be hitting your grass from two different angles. This will allow you to use a reel mower to efficiently cut tall grass.
What is a Rotary Mower?
A rotary mower is a term used to describe the motion that the blade of a gas or electric mower uses to cut blades of grass. Unlike reel mowers which spin in a north to south rotation and snip blades of grass as they are pulled between the mower’s blades and the bed knife, a rotary mower uses a blade that spins horizontally, or east to west. While reel mowers can have between 4 to 7 blades, a rotary mower will generally only have one cutting blade that spins rapidly in this horizontal direction.
Since these mowers are normally powered by either a gas or electric motor, they are much more powerful than manually-powered reel mowers, allowing them to tackle virtually any grass condition quickly and easily. The drawback of these models is that the horizontal rotation of a rotary mower’s blades doesn’t cut blades of grass with a scissor-like snip like a reel mower does. Instead, as the blade spins, it tears through the blades of grass that are in its path.
This can actually do damage to a lawn since the tears can cause the blades of grass to loss valuable moisture and leave them more susceptible to both disease and insects.
Is a Reel Mower Hard to Push?
Many people assume that a reel mower is going to be hard to push. Luckily, this isn’t the case. While models used decades ago might have been slightly difficult to move across a lawn, modern reel mowers have been designed to be incredibly lightweight and easy to operate. Most models currently on the market weight between 20 to 40 lbs and have been built with ball bearing wheels that glide across a lawn easily. Built with precise steel blades, all a user has to do is gently push the mower forward, letting the blades do all the hard work.
As long as a lawn isn’t overgrown with grass that measures more than 4” in height, the mower’s blades should do their job efficiently, allowing you to push the tool forward with ease. If you start to notice that your reel mower is beginning to feel sluggish and hard to push, the reason is that the blades have dulled. While these mowers are designed with blades that hold a sharp edge for extended periods of time, they can wear down after more than a year of heavy use.
Dull blades will stop the mower from clipping grass blades efficiently, causing the tool to slow down and be hard to push. To fix this, you simply have to sharpen the blades with one of several options out there such as a back lapping sharpening kit. Once the blades of your reel mower are sharp again, you’ll be able to push it across your yard with virtually no effort at all.