To begin with, let’s buckle down on the different types of grass there is. You need to know what is the basic quality, growth, sunlight, fodder, nurturing needed for your lawn before you get into the kinds of lawn mowers you need and when or how you need to use them. Depending on where you are located, grass types can be divided into two broad categories.
1. Cool-season grasses are also known as Bentgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Canada Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Meadow grass, Wheatgrass, Fine Fescue Grass, Tall Fescue Grass. These are the popular varieties and are found in the northeastern, midwestern and Pacific midwestern parts of the United States, UK, and other cool and humid climates. They are best suited for temperatures ranging from 15 to 24 degrees Celsius with cool, and slightly moist areas where they can stay green throughout the year. So if you are located in a snowbound region or temperatures tend to drop below 15 for over a few months, the above grass types may not survive well. They may die or at best go dormant, in case there is snowfall they may suffer from “rust” but once the cool and humid conditions re-appear, they will bounce back.
Ideally, if you are keen on having a lawn with this type of grass make sure you keep the area well irrigated and as cool as possible. The grass will shoot up at a good speed so be sure to schedule your lawnmowing on a weekly basis. This growth spurt is especially visible during the spring or summer months but can taper off during harsh, dry autumns or snowy winters so watch out for those temperatures. The grass may stop growing but that’s only because they are dormant and will re-appear upon the first rays of sunshine and dewy haze. Now let’s take a closer look at two of the most popular types of cool grasses – the Bluegrass and the Fescue grass and see what it takes to have a well-manicured lawn.
2. Bluegrass – this is the most popular variety and can easily be identified with its rich green color leaf blades that are so soft, you want to sleep on them. Given the right environment, they have rapid growth and can quickly populate your lawn space like a deep jade blanket. However, here are a few quick pointers on how you can care for this plant. As all cool-season grasses, they thrive on cool and wet climates and will turn dormant or die in cold, or harsh, dry weather.
Ideally, keep them mowed to a height of no more than 3 inches or 1/3rd of the leaf blade. Given spring and summer is when the grass has maximum growth due to ideal weather conditions, you may want to mow them at least once a week. However, don’t overdo it either as any deeper a cut you may upset the root and cause damage. So when in doubt, let them grow out. Next up, understand their water consumption. If you live in a heavy to light rainfall area then do not water the lawn at all. These plants require only an inch of water each week. Too much water can also damage the root so make sure you keep check on the daily and weekly water consumption.
3. Fescue grass is another popular variety among the cool seasonal grass. This has a distinct quality of bunching together. They can be identified due to their peculiar clumping of grass which happens as they tend to contain or group together. This quality enables the grass to be separate from flower beds or nearby plants but can be a bit difficult to heal in case they are too “bunched” up.
Compared to the bluegrass variety, they are easier to maintain as they can easily be maneuvered, due to their clumping quality, in areas you designate; they require less watering as their roots go deep; they also need less fertilizer compared to the bluegrass and are ideal for your walk in the garden to light yoga. Don’t have the kids play ball though as this grass is unlikely to hold up to heavy foot traffic and in case you have pets who like to use the lawn as their potty – you may want to change that as the grass will be damaged. Keep them mowed at the same height as the bluegrass and mow them once a week.
4. Warm-season grasses have the following varieties – Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Buffalo Grass, Carpet Grass, Centipede Grass, Kikuyu, Seashore Paspalum, St. Augustine Grass, Zoysia Grass. As signified by their name, they can be found in warm and humid areas where temperatures are upward of 27 degrees Celsius. These are Australia, South Africa, the Gulf, and mainly the southern and southwestern parts of the United States and also some parts of Canada.
This variety of grass uses the weather to its advantage and has an excellent drought resistant capacity making it the best bet for the sunny lawns. Unlike its cool seasonal cousin, this can survive on almost a fraction of the water supply and make it an ideal choice for landscaping where surplus water supply can be a challenge. Another advantage of this grass is its ability to withstand salt or high nitrogen content – making it a great choice for those people who like their pets to take a walk in their backyards.
Now, for the drawbacks and thankfully there aren’t too many. The disadvantage of this type of grass is the maintenance it requires as the grass path tends to entangle. Although not a daily or even a weekly activity, you will need to set aside time annually to de-tangle your lawn. The other disadvantage is the temperature. The moment the cold steps in, this grass will suffer and can become dormant if temperatures fall below 10 degrees Celsius. You can of course seed in it’s colder cousin during the cool autumn and winter months and watch them cover your lawn in no time. Come summer, the reverse will happen ensuring your lawn is perennially green
Now that you know everything there is to know about the different types of lawns and how to care and maintain them, you can hopefully identify the type of grass you have or want to grow and how to nurture it. That was only one part of the knowledge. Now let’s take a deeper look at how to use lawn mower like a pro, lawn mowing tips and tricks, and how to maintain your prized possession. We will break it down in 10 easy steps.
- The first thing to understand is what to wear to mow the lawn. First get yourself ready for the mowing ceremony, which means dress accordingly. Put on a comfortable t-shirt and depending on the weather, you can wear a pair of cargo shorts or track pants. Think of this as your workout time so dress accordingly. If you decide to mow the lawn late in the afternoon versus early in the morning, you may want to wear a cap and shades to protect yourself from the harsh sunlight. If you are an absolute first-timer, wear protective shades as the grass shards may fly across in case you increase the motor speed or have a powerful blade strength. A pair of workers glove will also be helpful as in the beginning you may use all your strength to hold onto the operator – control bar. This can lead to your palms getting chapped initially so best to be safe than have rough hands.
- Next, let’s take a look outside to see when is the best time to mow the lawn. Depending on the type of grass you have, you also need to check the seasons, that is, frequent mowing of the lawns during spring and autumn and cutback mowing to once in a fortnight come summer or autumn, winter. The ideal height for all types of grasses is the blade shouldn’t be longer than 3 inches or as long as the grass as green. If your lawn has a lot of yellow grass or rough, bare patches, you are mowing at a lower blade or overdoing it, respectively. This will take time so start slow by mowing the lawn once a week, preferably on a Saturday morning when you have time to adjust the levels and see the effects of the first trim. Once you get the hang of things, you can easily increase or decrease the speed, add or remove the blade strength.
- Lastly, be sure to mow on a dry patch instead of when the lawn is freshly watered. This will prevent undue splattering of water on the grass and the dry blades will be easily chopped off with the lawnmower as compared to the wet turf. Secondly, it is entirely up to you if you want to collect the clipped grass blades or not. Some leave it behind to be used as a natural fertilizer while others prefer raking it in and disposing of it appropriately. There is no harm in either method so depending on your time and the amount of effort you want to put in, you can choose either process. Of course, if you haven’t mowed your lawn in some time, maybe more than a month, and see the blades are well over 4 inches, you should collect the clippings to prevent them from clumping over the freshly cut grass.
- When should you not mow the lawn? A good question to ask. There are three situations when you should never mow the lawn. The first is when you have newly seeded the turf. It may sound obvious but you don’t want to disturb the emerging shoots and best if you leave this area until when the blades pop up till they are 3 inches. This will take time but if you choose to mow the lawn before this time frame, you will hamper the growth of the blades. Another moment when you best leave the mowing after a few days or more is when you have applied any fertilizers or chemicals. The rigorous mowing action of the machine will circulate and perhaps expose you to the elements and in extreme cases can cause damage.
- Finally, don’t touch your garden with the lawnmower if you detect the blades are dull or in need of sharpening. Ideally, people do this as an annual ritual but sharpening your lawn blades depends on several factors. Firstly, how often do you use them? If you prefer the Saturday morning ritual that comprises spending an hour on your backyard for that freshly manicured look then best to count around 25 hours before hitting the bench grinder or bringing out the rotary tool. If you are spending more time or have a bigger lawn or are a professional landscaper then you will need to increase the frequency of sharpening the blade. Sharpening your lawnmower also depends on the type of lawnmower blade you have. These can be the mulching blades, combo blades, low or high lift blade, or standard blades.
- Ideally, best to remove the blades before sharpening them. You may also sharpen the blades while on the mower but best to leave this to when you have had some practice as even the slightest vibration can cause an accident. Depending on the type of blade you have, you will either need an angle or a bench grinder, a rotary tool, or a hand file. The store where you made the purchase will give you a quick demo on how to use the tool along with a quick guide on bonus and advance features, storage options, and usage. Whether your machine is the basic push propelled or the petrol or electric version, best to unplug the machine from its ignition wire, tip the machine onto its the side, and unscrew it to expose the mower blades.
- Safely remove each piece and remove any gunk, grass, mulch or residue from the grass before you sharpen it. Then, using any of the other sharpening tools, give it no more than four to five quick strokes. You don’t want to overdo them as that may strip the metal surface. Be sure you put the blades back exactly as you removed them. This entire exercise will take time so be sure you block aside time preferably during the weekend. Make sure the kids or pets aren’t around and as always, do have safety goggles and gloves on to prevent any nicks or mishaps. This is purely a precautionary measure and once you get the hang of things, you will be at it like a professional.
- In addition to regular sharpening sessions, there are a few other tips to keep your lawn mower running like a well-oiled machine. The first thing is to keep them well oiled! Depending on the type of mower you have, be sure to check the oil level for any dirt or grub that could enter and clog up the drain path. In case you see this or if the oil looks darker than when you first put it, be sure to replace it as it will be a problem later on. Apart from cleaning the blades before sharpening them, you will also need to open up the undercarriage and air filters for grass clippings, mulch or any dirt and grime that can and will be trapped during the course of mowing the lawn. This is another problem and is likened to keeping your skin pores clean and clear and preventing any major flare-ups or pimples.
- Furthermore, you will also have to check the spark plugs and replace if faulty, check oil recommendations and replace as needed and basically do semi-annual cleanups to ensure the machine functions as best as it can. If you are an absolute beginner, take the machine across to the local repair shop or the store where you bought it and they provide cleanups. You may observe the technicians in action first and then take over.
- There is no rocket science to this and everyone can do this. The point is, you just need to invest time and patience to take good care of your machine so that it can perform at its very best. Treat it like your body. Don’t you exercise each day? Don’t you eat good food and go for regular check-ups so that you are at your very best? Don’t you take good care of yourself when you are unwell and give yourself enough rest and medications if you do fall sick? Well then, your lawnmower is basically your body for the lawn. Treat it well and it will not disappoint
The Top 3 lawn mowers
Finally, let’s get into the types of mower you’ll be learning about in this lawn mower guide. Now that you know all there is to know about the different types of lawn grass and how to properly maintain your lawnmower and use it like a professional, it’s time to introduce you to the product. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that there are tons of new and different products with specifications coming out into the market each day. The fact is that you can narrow down lawnmowers into 3 categories
- The manual version can be pushed behind, push reel or the walk behind kind. Ideally meant for small lawns that don’t need much maintenance and have an easy terrain to mow on. Make sure you still set aside half an hour each walk to mow your turf and don’t forget the maintenance drills we discussed in Part 1.
- The gas-powered, motorized or riding versions are far more common these days and can be bought for small to large lawns (think acres of turf) – having fancy landscaping as needed for uphill, downhill terrain. If you are running low on time, this is your power tool.
- The last is the robotic, highly sophisticated machines and meant more for the connoisseurs than your average Joe. Although they are quite capable of performing all functions as the manual and gas-powered version, they do have specialized sensors and specifications so for the purpose of this guide,
For the focus of this guide, let’s analyze three different models hyperlinked below, their specifications, advantages and disadvantages. This will help you use the same filter when you consider buying your own model as well as dispense valuable advice to your neighbors on what is the best lawnmower they should buy.
Greenworks 20-Inch 3-in-1
Let’s begin with the electric lawnmower. A typical model ideally weighs between 50 to 60 pounds. Not too heavy to push around and can easily be stored in the garage or the garden tool shed. Any electric mower can be on the heavier side as you don’t have to push it around however, this may take two to bring out of its carton to assemble or in case you are moving it from one location to another.
It usually comes with an adjustable height range for simple to difficult cutting. So you can easily adjust if you need a super fine cut, say around 1 inch high blades or keep it at standard level if you need the regular trim of around 3-4 inches. This particular model has 7 levels. The handles are also foldable so they don’t occupy much space and can easily fit into the compact cabinets. What is also included in this version is the 3 in 1 bags which easily fit under the handle or on the side or rear.
Since this is an electric lawnmower, you will need to get your own extension cord. Depending on where your power source lies and how big your lawn turf is, you will need to get a long or short extension cord. Having an electric source eliminates any battery recharging issues but if you need too long an extension cord, you will need to watch out for any damage. Another issue with using a long cord is the probability of the wire coming in the pathway of the lawnmower so be sure to keep it out of the path before you begin trimming. Best to do this is to start from the power outlet and move away from the source. If you have multiple power outlets you can buy a smaller cord or choose not to uncord it entirely. It may seem cumbersome at first but once you set a pattern, it will be easy to follow.
It has a powerful 12 Amp motor. The range is usually between 6 – 12 amp so choose a version on the higher side for better performance. Another thing to watch out for is matching the strength of the cable cord with the Amp. Given this is a high powered (12 AMP) version, the cable should not be too thin. Check with your local hardware store so they can guide you towards the best extension cord and avoid any mishaps later on.
Now if you need to consider its performance, bear in mind the basic rules. Don’t use it on damp grass. They stick to the underside and the bag and it will take you a lot of time and effort to clean, wash and scrape through the underside and the bags. Gas mowers can power through damp grass and will still give you a great finish minus the additional headache of clean up thereafter.
Electric lawnmowers are meant for tiny to small lawns with an easy terrain. You can use them well around flower beds or slight bushes. They are light weight and can be pushed around easily. They are not as powerful as gas lawn mowers so if you are looking for competition level, precision cuts, you may want to look away. If you are looking for a heavy duty, powerful machine, then your best bet is a gas powered mower. Electric mowers also need frequent tune ups if they are left lying for too long. If you use it frequently then they will serve as well as a gas powered version.
This particular product comes with a four year warranty and is more than sufficient to cover any minor repairs or wear and tear in the bags, gears or materials. Of course, if you follow the guide and ensure regular clean ups, prevent using on damp grass and are careful with it, the warranty will be just a piece of paper.
Now let’s take a look at a battery-powered version. It’s most attractive feature is how lightweight and compact it is weighing just shy of 35 pounds. It is so light you can even hang it on the tool shed and easy for lugging around from place to place. The drawback is unlike the earlier electric version, the height is not as adjustable. However, it comes in three different levels so you can use it for weekly mowing for up to 3.5 inches.
As always, do not use it on wet grass as it will clog up the bags and you will need to spray clean it to remove the mulch or clippings stuck to the underside or carriage. Bear in mind you are dealing with an battery operated version so make sure to completely unplug before cleaning it and not water hose to clean the machine. If you do accidentally use it on wet grass, it will give you a great finish as compared to the electric version. It will also impact the battery life quality so best to stay clear of the moistness.
Now let’s understand it’s power source and how well you can maintain it. This particular version comes with 2 removable batteries that will need to be charged. It also has a charger included with dual port. For faster and stronger performance, make sure you charge both batteries to full capacity. If you have a small yard (backyard) you can get away by charging just one battery provided you are a regular mower. If you are looking to mow a large lawn with difficult terrain, make sure both batteries are charged completely – this maybe best done overnight as it takes at least 6 hours. You don’t want a situation with a half mowed lawn only because you were too lazy to plug in the chargers the night before.
Feel free to also purchase other batteries provided they are the same voltage as the model you are using. Anything lower than the one for the lawnmower, it wont operate the machine or it will stall half way; anything higher than the one mentioned in the manual, there will be a short circuit. This particular model has the rechargeable batteries with indicators for ease of use.
Finally, if we compare this with the gas powered or even the electric version, this model lags behind in terms of strength. Yes it will finely mow a small lawn which has been regularly maintained. However, this will run out of battery (even if you charge it overnight) if operated for over an hour. This is also not meant for higher grass blades or thicker growth. The gas powered version will easily complete the job while the batter version will need to power down for another round of charging. Incidentally, a quick charge on even one battery takes at least 2 hours. Barring this, the battery operated version is still your best and easiest to use and maintain model for the small to tiny lawn which require minimal effort for a glorious effect.
3. American Lawn Mower Company 1204
And finally, let’s examine the pioneer version, the push reel lawnmower. The push reel, also known as a grass cutter, push mower and of course, the lawnmower was the next version after humans graduated from the handheld scythes or depended on the cattle for trimming the grass. So this is the most eco-friendly machine you will use and doesn’t rely on gas, batteries or electricity. This also means it is the easiest to maintain and doesn’t come with too many frills, add on’s as the other versions.
If you are keen on having the whole nine yards you can of course purchase additional items like the grass bags, however, with these machines, you simply leave the grass trimmings for mulch – natural fertilizer. You don’t have to take out your tool kit for an hour long clean up and maintenance operations as this one is easy to operate and easier to maintain. No stress for replacing batteries or charging them, no fuss in case the warranty gets over as this doesn’t need much assembly and the only maintenance is the regular sharpening of the blades.
This particular model comes with really strong blades made of heat treated steel alloy and were already as powerful as the gas operated monsters. Precision and clean cuts, you can use this on the well manicured lawns and also drive it onto the knee long grass which you have been too lazy to mow the past winter! They can finely slice all kinds of grass from the fescue, to the mixed weeds and more.
Now you are wondering how does this machine operate without gas, batteries, or power. Well, it needs human power, and therein lies the answer to your next gym membership. This push reel lawn mowers need your power to mow the lawn. You have to be ready for a proper workout so make sure you are dressed for burning more than a few calories, specifically for upper body strength. If you are a beginner, then the push reel is the best machine to start with as it will show you upfront the hard work and sweat involved in the care and upkeep of your green piece of paradise. You may be fooled by the slim and sleek look of the handle but it is quite sturdy and will adjust to your weight as you navigate through those easy and hard to reach patches as well as hold the weight when you are cutting through a particularly heavy growth of green. Finally, the handle is not as adjustable as the other models but what it lacks in flexibility, it makes up for in weight. The lightest model, this weighs under 25 pounds and you can lug it on your shoulder easier than your backpack!