This is a post from the EcoRenovator forums by co-founder MetroMPG, who let me republish his post here on the blog. Thanks, Darin!
This year I mowed the grass at my parents’ place exclusively with one of those push-type reel mowers. It’s not a tiny lawn, either – let’s say it took me about half an hour to do.
To complete the human-powered theme, I also ditched the power trimmer for a set of long-handled shears.
Previously, I’d been using their plug-in (AC) electric mower & weed whacker. But I gave that mower to my brother because my nephew (10 years old) started cutting the grass at his house this year and found their gas lawnmower too heavy to handle.
So here are my observations:
1. It takes longer. Why? Because the reel mower doesn’t cut perfectly. The problem seems to be that the wheels push the grass down, and it doesn’t spring up again before the next pass, so the blades miss it. So I find I have to do multiple passes, or the lawn has racing stripes.
I didn’t mind that it took extra time. I viewed the extra walking as getting in some exercise (I sit on my butt in front of a computer all day).
2. It’s liberating. It helps you get over any OCD tendencies you may have about a flawless lawn (see point #1).
3. It’s easier to push. The reel mower is lighter than even a small electric mower.
4. It’s more sensitive to dull blades. You can get away with a dull power mower because the sheer speed & violence of the spinning blade will hack the grass to bits, even if it’s dull. Not a reel push mower. It needs to be sharpened once or twice a season for acceptable results. I bought a kit. It takes about 10 minutes to sharpen.
5. It’s nice & quiet. So much quieter. Feel the urge to cut the grass in the middle of the night without waking anyone up? Me neither. I never really noticed how much noise lawnmowers make in the neighbourhood until spending the summer behind a quiet mower.
6. It doesn’t mulch. Autumn presents problems. It doesn’t grind up & spit out the leaves the way a power mower does. More raking required.
7. You can mow barefoot. The blades stop when you stop. Sure, you can mow barefoot with a power mower too. Even with the bar-mounted shut-off lever, how comfy does that feel?
8. You can’t let the grass get too long. Reel mowers don’t do well in really long grass (mine just doesn’t cut the long blades). So you’ve got to stay on top of things, unlike a power mower, which can attack a small hay field you’ve left too long.
9. It intrigues people. When was the last time you had a total stranger pull into your driveway to talk to you about your lawn mower? Or your brother in-law say “hey, let me mow some!” A push mower is a conversation piece – people will want to know what you think of it – and in a way, it’s kind of fun.
10. “Zen and the art of lawn maintenance”. It’s more relaxing. Once you accept its weaknesses, the combination of the light weight and snick-snick-snick quietness make for a more enjoyable experience. A reel mower can transform the chore of cutting the grass into an almost meditative experience.