Why Reel Mowers Make Sense

These aren't your grandmother's lawn mowers. Today's reel mowers make real sense for lawn care.


Like many first-time homeowners, I was working with a very small budget when I bought my first house. I knew there would be a ton of things I'd need to buy, so I had to shop wisely.

In spring when I started shopping for a lawn mower, reel mowers caught my eye. They seemed to offer a lot of advantages, but I wasn't sure the theory would work as well in reality. I gave it a try and I discovered that in many situations, reel mowers make a lot of sense. Here's why:

Expense. The first thing I noticed about reel mowers is that they were considerably less expensive than gas- or battery-powered mowers. And I reasoned that because I wasn't using gasoline or electricity, they were also more budget-friendly to use.

Environmental impact. I also loved the fact that reel mowers don't add to pollution levels in the atmosphere. And I didn't smell like gas after using them.

Size. Perhaps it's because they don't have so many working parts that reel mowers are smaller and lighter. It was great that I didn't have to have any help loading the mower into the car and I could actually hang it up on my garage wall to save space when I wasn't using it.

Exercise. While newer reel mowers aren't at all hard to push, they're a great form of exercise. You burn about 400 calories an hour mowing the lawn with a push mower.

Lawn quality. A little research taught me that my choice was great for another reason: Reel mowers tend to make a superior cut. The sharp blades make clean cuts to your grass, much like scissors. Traditional rotary mowers actually tear the tips of your grass off, leaving jagged edges that often turn yellow.

They're quiet. Because reel mowers don't have an engine, they make virtually no noise. You can mow whenever you want without disturbing your family or neighbors.

Discover all about the helpful tools that make gardening and lawn care easier.

As great as they are, reel mowers aren't for everyone. Here are some examples:

You need to keep on your grass. While reel mowers are easy to use when your lawn is short, the machines can get very tough to push if your grass is too long. (That said, you never want to remove more than one-third of the total leaf length when you mow; removing more than a third of the leaf-length at one time can stress your grass.)

You spend more time mowing. Most reel mowers are a little narrower than their high-powered cousins, meaning you have to make more passes with your mower to cut the same amount of grass.

They're best suited to small lawns. The larger your lawn, the more time you'll spend mowing. Many homeowners find that about one-third of an acre is the maximum size they'd use a reel mower on.

They don't cut weeds as well. Many types of weeds, including dandelions, bend underneath the reel-mower blades instead of being cut off.

They don't handle sticks as well. If you have a lot of trees, you'll need to pick up branches instead of running over them like you would with a mulching blade on a traditional rotary mower.

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