Have higher gas prices turned your lawn into a jungle? Allay those fuel fears by switching to a push reel mower. Harkening back to those halcyon days of 1950, the reel mower relies on a rotating cylinder of 5 to 7 blades for silently snipping your grass into manicured perfection. All of this beauty is not achieved without some sweat, though. Your sweat.
The motor for a reel mower is you! Your legs and arms are the driving force that push the reel mower through your grass and thus convert your mussy lawn into a nice tidy lot. All of this exercise can be a good thing.
In order to achieve the best cut with a reel mower, you must walk at a nice even pace. This pace can be easier said than done–pushing a reel mower isn’t a piece of cake.
Likewise, there is an ideal cutting angle that must be formed between the lawn and the mower’s handle. Maintaining this ideal angle throughout a bumpy, uneven lawn can be quite a chore. So if you have difficulty chewing bubble gum while walking a straight line, then the reel mower might not be your cup of tea.
So how do all of these tree-huggin’ virtues stack up against the realities of mowing your lawn? Well, I tested a Task Force 16-inch reel mower (Lowe’s; $89.98) on a 4,800 square-foot lawn. The total mowing time ranged between 25-35 minutes–not bad for a 16-inch cut mower.
Note that you will also need to use a string/line trimmer for cutting around plantings, trees, sidewalks, driveways, and the house. Two extra caveats worth mentioning: grass length should not exceed three inches above cutting height, and all yard debris (e.g., sticks, rocks, toys, etc.) must be cleared prior to chasing your reel mower around the yard. Finally, my required mowing cycle went from every seven days with a gas mower to every five days with a reel mower.