Mowers For Small to Medium Lawns

By   November 18, 2015

Making the right choice of lawn mowers is important.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with it and selecting the right mowers can make a big difference.  Let’s look at some of the different kinds available:

Lawn Mowers for Small Lawns

This push type mower has an attached grass catcher bag

This push-type mower has an attached grass catcher bag

A push type reel mower is a good choice for small lawns.  They cut well, require very little upkeep, and are fairly inexpensive.  The drawback is that you have to provide the power.  The reel type blades spin when the mower is moved.  Use this type of mower only for small lawns of 500 square feet or so.

Lawn Mowers for Small to Medium Lawns

The most common type of mower is the walk behind.  These powered mowers can handle larger lawns and have a motor to handle the cutting chore.  A good one will run for years with minimal care.  The most common size is 20″ to 22″.  Smaller sizes are sometimes used by professionals for trimming but, because of the motor size and weight, require as much effort as the standard size ones.  A few brands offer larger size cuts which can cut down your mowing time, but larger mowers are often heavier.  And since safety laws limit the speed that a mower blade can spin, the blades on a larger mower may not spin fast enough to give you a clean cut.

Gas or Electric

Some lawn mowers can bag the clippings

Some lawn mowers can bag the clippings

It doesn’t make a difference to your lawn what type of power your mower uses, but it may make a difference to you.  Electric motors are more dependable than gas, start at the flip of a switch, are cheaper to buy and to run, are quieter, and are better for the environment.  Unfortunately, they’re not as powerful as gas as there’s a limit to the size of the motor that can be run on an extension cord.  And you need to drag the cord around behind you without running it over.

New battery technology has allowed for cordless electric mowers.  Depending on the model any your grass height, they’ll handle up to 1/4 acre max.  New battery technology may stretch this out to 1/2 acre or so soon.  Allow a lot of leeway in your selection.  Don’t pick one that’s right at the limit because batteries weaken with age.

Given a choice, I would pick an electric for a small lawn because of their simplicity, but would prefer gas for anything larger than 6 or 7,000 square feet.

Gas mowers have enough power to offer another choice: Self-propelled or push types.  Self-propelled is a great feature if your lawn cutting involves long straight cuts.  You just need to follow behind, the mower does all of the work.  Self-propelled mowers lose their advantage if your lawn requires a lot of maneuvering and turns.  The extra effort to bully them through turns or uneven terrain can sometimes negate their energy savings on the straight runs.

Cutting, Bagging, or Mulching

As your mower cuts your grass, it needs to do something with the clippings.  The traditional solution is to shoot them out of the side of the mower which should, but doesn’t always, spread them out to sink back into the turf to break down into mulch.  Sometimes it works, but often it leaves grass piles or clumps that need to be raked up.  Raking is definitely not a part of an easy lawn and we have a few solutions.

Clumps and piles of grass are often the result of grass being wet, too long, or a poorly designed mower.  The solution to wet grass is easy, just wait a while until it’s dry.  Set the cutting height up if the grass is too long, you shouldn’t be cutting off more than 1/3 of your grass height at one time anyways.  As for the poorly designed mower problem, that’s why we’re here now.

Many mowers come with baggers to catch your grass clippings.  While this leaves your lawn nice and neat, it’s not always the best for your lawn.  Bags fill up quick and you’ll need to empty them often and dispose of the clippings.  And you need to clean out the bag completely at the end of your mowing as grass clippings rot quickly and can smell bad.

Some mowers are mulchers.  That means that along with cutting the tops off the grass, the mower chops it up and (tries to) force it back into the turf.  Some mowers are convertible.  No, the top doesn’t go down, they have a setting or adjustment that switches from side discharge to mulching.

There’s another problem with baggers.  The clippings that you’re bagging are loaded with nutrients.  Mulching the clippings back in recycles these nutrients and the decomposing clippings do all sorts of good things.  They shade out weed growth, cool the ground, encourage earthworms (good), and supply organic material to improve your soil. Disposing of the clippings removes them.  It means that you’ll need to fertilize more often.

Overall, mulchers are often the best way to go in the long run.  Their drawbacks are that mulching mowers sometimes need bigger motors and often cost a bit more.