When I mow my lawn every week and my neighbors pass by I can’t help but wonder if they are thinking one of the following three things:
1. That girl is nuts.
3. Hmm… no gas, no electricity, and you get a little exercise. Maybe I should look into one of those.
My hope is that they are thinking number 3. And possibly number 2.
When I bought my house a year ago I didn’t have to think too long about what lawn mower to buy. True, I guess I didn’t really need to buy one at all, since my house came with an old Montgomery Ward gas mower that was left in the garage as a bonus gift (along with golf clubs and Christmas decorations). But I already feel bad about the gas that I use to drive 20 miles to work every day, so I didn’t really think it was necessary to use more to mow my relatively small (yet indulgent) front lawn. Besides, I can use all the extra calorie burning I can get. So after a quick look around I settled on the Scotts 20 inch push reel mower. Low tech and low-cost. A great combo.
The mower arrived from Amazon in a timely fashion, partially assembled. Thankfully, I had no trouble assembling it the rest of the way, as evidenced by this photo taken by my proud mother, who was visiting for the day and was gratified to see that the genetic tendency for the women in our family to take on the role of the Man of the House has been successfully passed on to the next generation.
Assembly was completed without any problems, and three generations of Corey women traded off the inaugural grass cutting.
When word of my push mower purchase spread I quickly began receiving offers of an extra mower from friends and family members, to which I replied: “Thanks but no. I’m sure me and my push mower will get along great. Besides, there is an unused gas mower in the garage.” My boyfriend insisted on keeping the gas mower around until last month when, after using my push mower for a year without incident, I successfully lobbied to place it on the curb for pickup by the first person who would be willing to take it. One Craigslist ad and 15 minutes later it was gone, and the available storage space in my garage was increased by approximately four square feet.
So why am I so enamored by my push mower, you might ask. Well, you can ask me or the other 479 people who have rated this mower 4 or more stars on Amazon, and we will likely say, whats not to love? No pollution; very little noise, other than the soft whirring of the rotary blade; its quick, easy, and does a fantastic job at what should be a very simple, quick and easy task.
Here are a few things to consider if you would like to do your part to embrace low-tech mowing.
1. Square footage. I would follow the “if I can walk it I can push mow it” rule of thumb. My lawn is probably a little less than 1,000 square feet and one pass with the push mower takes about 20 minutes. If you live on a farm and are mowing acres of grassy meadows, you probably don’t want a push mower. Otherwise, if you can walk it, push mow it. Contrary to popular belief, it is not easier to push a gas mower, in fact they are considerably heavier.
2. Topography. Here, the “if I can walk it I can push it” rule of thumb may also be used, however; if you have very steep hills or lots of ups and downs you might have some trouble. But if that’s the case you are probably having trouble with a gas mower too, so what the heck, try a push mower.
3. Geology. Rocks and push mowers don’t get along very well. You want to make sure your lawn is rock free before you give it a go. We have some of those white decorative rocks in our yard and they occasionally make their way into the lawn. They won’t do any major damage to the mower, the rotary blade will just get stuck and you’ll need to bend down to remove the rock. I know, it sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, you can stand to do some squats anyway.
4. Frequency. I mow once a week, on average. I have let a week lapse on occasion, and in those cases I’ve had to do a second pass. The mower has 9 height settings, so you can get your lawn to less than an inch high, or if you prefer to feel the grass sweeping past your ankles, you can set it to about 3 inches or so. If I have a two-week lapse between mows I usually set it pretty high on the first pass and pretty low on the second pass. This just makes it a little easier, otherwise if you set it very low when your grass is pretty tall you’ll end up struggling a bit. Better to take a longer but more pleasant walk, no?
4. Leftovers. The push mower has an optional grass catcher for collecting the clippings, just like a gas mower, but I didn’t order it. Other than a bit of sweeping at the edges near concrete paths and such, the clippings just sort of fade back into the lawn and repurpose themselves as mulch. Once I get a compost bin going I may indulge in the grass catcher so I can add the clippings to other yard waste, but for now I just let the clips fall where they may (haha). I suppose you could rake your clippings after you mow in order to distribute them evenly, but if you mow in rows this sort of happens automatically.
5. Maintenance. I’ve had this mower for a year and have had no upkeep or maintenance issues to speak of. I’ve read that the blade needs to be sharpened every couple of years, so by next summer mine should be due for a sharpening. Scotts sells a sharpening kit for the low low price of around $15, and judging from the reviews by other users it sounds like a pretty easy thing to do yourself. I like this description by Amazon.com reviewer SKSK: “In short: turn the mower upside-down, use the brush to “paint” the compound (a thick goop) along the end of each blade, pop off a wheel, slip on the crank, and have your son turn it for a couple of minutes. (If you don’t have children, you’ll have to do it yourself.) Finally clean off the compound and re-assemble the mower.” Sounds easy to me!
I can’t give you any real advice on what brand to buy, I can only tell you I went with the Scotts 20 inch because it was the widest one I could find. American Lawn Mower makes a 14, 16, and 18 inch models. Fiskars also makes an 18 inch model, but I thought the style was kind of funky and it was twice as expensive as Scotts. Fiskars does make good sewing scissors though, so maybe the extra $100 is worth it. In the end, Scotts seemed to be well rated and inexpensive so I went with it. I hope you decide to go with it too, and together we can start a low-tech yard revolution!