Lawn mowers & mowing

Types of lawn mower

There are many types of lawn mower available on the market, these include petrol driven, electric powered, push, trailed and hover  amongst others.
However these machines will either cut the grass with either a rotary blade or a cylinder. We will look at each type in turn:

Rotary

A rotary mowerRotary lawn mowers are more common than the cylinder type. This is due to a cheaper purchase price, ease of maintenance and versatility. You can let the lawn get a little overgrown with a rotary mower and still mow it without any real problem. Cylinder mowers don't perform well when they cut long grass.

However a rotary mower does not produce the same high quality finish of a cylinder mower. The rotary mower consists of one or more blades depending on the width of cut. The blade is mounted beneath the hood or deck of the mower and runs parallel with the grass.

It cuts the grass by spinning very quickly, and as it makes contact with the grass it cuts it with the sharp cutting edge on the blade. It is vital to ensure that the cutting edge is sharp, as this achieves a cleaner cut. A rotary mower which is not sharp would not leave a clean finish to a lawn. This could also result in shortening the life of the mower as it is made to labour and work harder if the blade is not correctly maintained.

Cylinder


Blades on a cylinder mowerA cylinder mower will generally give a better quality finish and can cut lower than a rotary mower. This makes it the preferred choice for anyone who is serious about a very high quality lawn.

It is important not to let your lawn get overgrown with a cylinder mower. They perform best when they are used on a regular basis removing a small amount of grass each time, they do not perform well when cutting long grass.

These mowers generally require a little more maintenance. It is important to keep the cylinder and bottom blade set properly to achieve the optimum cutting quality. This is a relatively easy task, so long as the blades are kept sharp.

At the start of each mowing season it would be very beneficial to pay your local mower centre a visit to get the blades sharpened. This can only be done with specialist machinery and would certainly pay dividends during the growing season.

Purchasing

Buying a lawn mower can be an expensive exercise so it is vital that you buy the right mower for your lawn. There are a few things to take into consideration before you go ahead with your purchase, these include:

  • The size of the area to cut: If you have a large area to mow, consider buying a ride on mower, which has a wider cut therefore saving you valuable time.
  • Power source: Petrol and electric are the most common types of lawn mower although you may want to consider a push mower if you have a small area to mow. There are a good range of both electric and petrol mowers on the market now. While electric is quieter do you want the hassle of a cable following you around the lawn?
  • The type of cut required: As covered in the previous section, Rotary mowers are good all rounders and excellent for most types of lawn. If you are not to concerned with the quality of your lawn or you allow it to become a little long at times, a rotary mower would be ideal. If you want a high quality, close mown lawn, a cylinder mower would be the way to go.

Maintenance & service

Unless you have a new mower going into the new cutting season, chances are you mower will need some sort of attention before you want to use it. The majority of people will most likely just put the mower away in the shed or garage and forget about it until the following spring.
When the grass starts to grow again and is in need of a cut, it is then that they find out that there is a fault with the mower. Maybe it won't start or the cylinder has rusted and won't spin. They then have to take it for repair.

The majority of problems would occur with a cylinder mower while not being used, because of it's more complex operation. With a rotary mower there would be less to go wrong. If the mower started it would probably just need a sharpen, or the blade replacing, a simple task for a rotary mower.

Once you have had your mower serviced it should give trouble free use during the season with a little care and maintenance. After use make sure that any grass is cleaned off, on a cylinder mower use an airline or stiff brush to get rid of any debris.

Do not to use water as this can get inside bearings and damage them, oil or grease any lubrication points in accordance with the manufactures recommendations. On a rotary mower make sure that the bottom of the deck is kept clean by using a scraper.

It is also important to remember when working with sharp cutting blades to make sure the mower is not running and the power source has been isolated. ie: the electric plug is unplugged or the spark plug cap is removed to prevent any injury or accident from the mower suddenly starting.

How to cut your lawn

Prior to mowing you should check your lawn for any debris, stones etc as these can damage blades. They can also be dangerous to the operator and people standing nearby.

For the best results cut the lawn when it is dry. The grass should ideally be cut in a different direction each time it is cut. This is to stop a nap forming on the lawn, if cut in the same direction every time the grass will eventually lay in one direction. This is more applicable to cylinder mowers.

Most experts recommend that you do 2 or 3 breeds around the lawn then continue cutting in strips up and down. Others will tell you to do the cuts around the lawn to finish. I prefer the second method as you will pick up debris that the mower has dropped whist turning at the end of each run.

However both methods are fine so choose the one that best suits you or your lawn. As a rule clippings should removed after each cut to prevent the build up of thatch or organic matter.

When mowing try not to remove more that 1/3rd of the leaf at any time as this will stress the grass and may cause it to go yellow and weak for a few days. If it does get overgrown, mow more frequently gradually reducing the height of cut until you reach the desired height of cut.

How high do I cut my lawn?

There is no one answer to this as there are many things to take into consideration. e.g: type of mower, how level is your lawn, type of grasses and the uses of the lawn etc.

A good height for a low maintenance domestic lawn which gets a lot of use and wear would be about 25mm or 1". Any lower and it would stress the grass, any higher and you would loose the tight sward and encourage coarser grasses at the expense of the finer grasses.

The height could be raised to about 30mm in the winter months. A rotary mower would be ideal for this type of lawn as the mower is quick and easy to maintain.

If you have a high quality lawn a reasonable summer height would be about 13mm or 1/2". Raise the height to 19mm or 3/4" in the winter months. Anyone mowing at this height should use a cylinder mower as they produce a better quality finish and cut.

When mowing at lower heights, it is important to make sure that your lawn is level to prevent scalping the turf, resulting in damage to both turf and lawn mower.

Mowing at a lower height stresses the grass, therefore it requires additional maintenance to keep it in a healthy condition.