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Q: Our lawn quit. We got just two mowings out of it this spring. The cost to repair it will be more than it is worth. I was thinking that we should get an old-fashioned mower that doesn't require gasoline, but my husband thinks they are heavy and that they don't cut very well. Have there been any improvements in lawn mowers besides the gasoline ones?
A: I remember using the old heavy manual reel mowers that your husband is thinking about. They were horrible to use, but they eventually did the job. There have been several improvements in all kinds of lawn mowers. Some of the newer gas-engine ones are not nearly as polluting or noisy as the older models. Many still use a mix of gas and oil, so they still pollute, but some have an oil reservoir like a car and pollute less.
There have been big improvements in the reel mowers as well. This old technology doesn't use gas, oil or electricity to spin the blades to clip the grass as it passes by the stationary blade. They can cut grass very well, as evidenced by their use on virtually every golf green, professional baseball diamond and football field. They are best used in short grass that grows with a vertical posture.
Southern grasses or lawns that are repeatedly crew cut will look great cut with a reel mower. Taller, floppy grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fescues and ryegrass will work if cut short, but if they are allowed to grow long, they will often bend out of the blades' path and not get cut. This leads to the reel mower jig, where the person behind the mower must dance back and forth in several directions to get to the point of attack that allows the tall grass to be cut.
The best reel mower I have ever used is the Fiskars Momentum. These guys know how to make things sharp and stay sharp. The blades don't touch, and yet they cut the grass without tearing it.
The mower blade can be adjusted from 1-4 inches, which is higher than any other reel mower. The wheels are set inside the width of the blades, allowing for close edge cutting and no grass left uncut by being pushed down by the wheels. Grass is tossed in front of the mower, where it gets cut again and it doesn't get tossed on to the user's feet. If you cut your grass short or it is Bermuda, St. Augustine or other vertical growing grasses, I highly recommend the Fiskars Momentum.
If your grass is left longer or it is one of the northern grasses, you may like another mower I love. The 24-volt battery operated Worx Eco is almost as quiet as the Fiskars reel mower. You can hold a conversation while using it in the quiet mode. The power mode is stronger for tall grass, but it is slightly louder. The box says it will cut 15,000 square feet of grass, and I found it easily cut that much.
It cuts from 1.5-3.5 inches and adjusts all four wheels easily with a single lever. My one complaint is that it doesn't have markings as to how high each setting is. The mower weighs 50 pounds, and 20 of them are the battery. The battery has a built in handle, and it very easily drops in and out of the mower with no connections to be made. Just set it in place and start mowing. The battery and charger both have green LEDs to let you know the power status.
Grass can be mulched, sent out the back or bagged. It does a reasonable job on leaves in the fall, but they don't mulch as much as with a gas powered mower.
E-mail questions to Jeff Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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