Perks of Reel Mowers
Personally, mowing the lawn has always been a chore for me. I mowed an acre growing up and hated pretty much everything about it. Most especially, I remember the amount of time the lawn mower was inoperable, causing all the fuss, tinkering, and buying gas. My mechanical ability as a kid was limited and my single mother did her best. However, often times, we would be lost waiting for our neighbors and family to have the free time to repair the thing and get us back up to speed.
I’ve since grown and become a homeowner of 2 years now. The heavenly task of yard upkeep has been bestowed upon me. As luck would have it, the in-laws gifted us an extra lawn mower and the extra “gift” worked for a month before it broke down.
Jumping at the chance, my greener wife gave me her best spiel for a reel mower. I tend to trust her instincts and goofy dreams for things, so a quick search online and two-day shipping later, we owned a reel mower. Now that we’ve had it for a season or two, I can say it has grown on me and a proper endorsement of its perks and exploration of its drawbacks is only fair.
#1 No gas!
Being frugal, green, and maybe leaning towards lazy, we don’t need gas for our reel mower. I suppose it saves us a few bucks per summer, but the hassle of remembering, executing, and paying for said gas is circumvented. The hassle of correct gas? Gone. It also saves me the headache of using the new leak proof gas cans that never work properly.
#2 Start and Stopping
With 2 toddlers and one kiddo on the way, the wife and I consider chore flexibility a top priority.
A pull-start motor is low on the flexibility list. Find a branch you missed, wife needs to ask you a question, or child about to swan dive off the swing set, you will inevitably have to stop and restart the motor. Depending on how finicky your lawn mower is, that can be a pain (this was a pain). Depending on how patient you are, you might find no issue with this or you might start getting feisty with the daredevil toddler. With a reel mower, you have 100% flexibility to stop, go do the_____ and resume with minimal effort.
#3 Little/No Noise
See Perk Number 2? The kiddo and flexibility part? The reel mower is so quiet, it does not wake our kids during naptime, the most sacrosanct time of day. Do you one better- we are able to mow any time night or day without disturbing the neighbors or the kiddos with the noise. EVEN BETTER- any child or animal with an aversion to loud noises are happy outside with you as you mow. With the ability to have this flexibility, we can actually get it done.
#4 Kid and Animal safe
With a motorized lawn mower, you are always worried about the occasional piece of stick or walnut that goes flying out after being hit by the blades. My wife recalls the rules in place when she was younger- keeping distance, wearing hearty shoes, turning it off at any sign of malfunction. Small children, pets, or not, the reel mower has no risk of flying debris. My barefoot kids frequently “help” me push our reel mower (starting them young), my pregnant wife is able to go barefoot and unworried about the fumes, and I can baby wear. Truly a safe option for the whole family.
#5 Low maintenance
If you find the right mower for you, taking care of them is a breeze. Keep the blades sharp and the axle clean, which they recommend doing every 3-5th cut with the reel mower. I would compare the maintenance of a reel mower to the care of a bike meeting the care of a pocketknife- if you know how to take care of both, you know how to maintain a reel mower.
Now before you run out and get one I will talk about a couple of the downsides I have experienced.
#1. Harder time with tall grass
Most reel mowers have a hard time with taller grass. If we go on vacation and the neighbor kid forgets to mow the lawn, we have to cut our lawn twice to get it back down to normal size. I have had to adjust the setting to the tallest cut. The following day, it will need to be lowered down and cut again to get the grass back to manageable size.
#2 (Perk #6?) It’s exercise.
During peak season, I have to mow twice a week to keep the grass where I like it. Any slope, sinkhole, or tree roots can make this difficult and any interruption I might have makes me lose my momentum. Restarting that momentum is about the same effort of pushing a full double stroller (toddlers tend to be my go-to measurements lately). It is exercise, for better or worse, a bit more intensive than a motorized mower walk or a breezy motorized rider drive might be. Dependent on the size and slope of your yard, not to mention your health, the reel mower might not be right for you.
#3 Grass Clippings
A reel mower is not a mulching mower so either you will have to purchase the bag attachment and toss your clippings (unless you compost) or rake up your grass after mowing, especially if it’s long. Another chore, yay! Our reel mower’s bag attachment is close to a joke. It frequently requires us emptying the clippings, requiring more momentum on my part and more exercise (again, good thing or bad thing?)
All in all, I love our switch. It is good for us for now and the foreseeable future on our 0.25 acre yard and the 3 under 3 plus pup lifestyle.
Neal is a husband, father of 2 and 1 on the way, Middle School religion teacher, Youth Minister, Faith Formation Coordinator, nerd, and sports enthusiast.