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Old 06-16-11, 08:14 AM   #1
SonataInFSharp
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Lawn Mower Alternatives?

So, my loud, gas-powered lawn mower broke again. (It probably just needs $60 thrown at it for a new carb and a diaphragm, but if I can put that $60 towards something else...)

I was going to get a manual reel mower, but then I realized that with my trees constantly shedding "helicopters" and the abundance of sticks in the grass, I would have to spend hours preparing the lawn for a reel mower, and it would still likely get stuck quite often.

It wouldn't make sense to weed-wack the whole yard, even though I barely have 4000 sq. feet of grass to cut.

I can't own cattle or livestock to eat the grass in the city.

I don't want to pave the whole yard--I just put the grass in, actually, and I want my grass.

But I don't want a loud lawn mower anymore.

Are electric mowers all they are cracked up to be? Do they last? Not sure I want one of those, either.

Any other options?

Maybe I will just throw that $60 at the mower I already have and hope it fixes it.
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Old 06-16-11, 08:25 AM   #2
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I have used reel mowers for about 15 years now.

-helicopter seed pods will not slow them down one bit.

-sticks can. Often the mower will ride right over them since they don't have the upward suction of a rotary. But they will regularly catch in the blades and stop you cold. I have trees all through my yard and I really don't pre-clean, but I will sometimes stop and move one that looks like trouble. Mostly I just power through them however.

-They don't edge well at all. Mine leaves about 3 inches uncut.

-Unless you have perfectly consistent and dense grass, the cut will never be as clean as a rotary.

-tight spots are a chore since you only cut when moving forward. And momentum is everything. Stopping and starting are not these mowers strong suit. If I was a cool hipster I would somehow make it fixed gear so it will always be spinning. Hmm, have to think about that one a while.

-Usually the grass that goes under the wheels will spring back up and leave a streak. In most conditions this is slight. In some, it is more pronounced.

Having said all that, I really like using them. If you are super-fussy about the grass or are a complete wimp, then you will hate them. If you have a small, fairly flat yard and are okay with it being a smidge messier than your neighbors, then they are awesome. You get better at using them. Its all about keeping that reel spinning. If you stubbornly insist on moving it like a rotary, they will wear you down and do a crappy job. If you work with its strengths and away from its weaknesses as much as possible, they are cinch to use. And cheap and quiet and always start. Probably also safer, but maybe not.

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Old 06-16-11, 08:25 AM   #3
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I have been pondering one of the Black and Decker 19" 36 volt cordless mowers, with the removable battery. A couple of years ago, in an attempt to be more ecological, I bought a Brill RazorCut 38 reel mower. It has been a disappointment in my thick, wet Seattle grass. Once the grass dies out on the summer, I can keep up with the reel mower. But once the grass gets over about 2.5 inches tall, the reel mower just slides over it, along with any tall weeds.
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Old 06-16-11, 08:52 AM   #4
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I have a small suburban yard in an arid climate that took 20 min to cut using my loud gas mower. It finally kicked the bucket and I replaced it with a 14" reel mower.
My lot has quite a few trees on it that are always dumping debris on the ground. I rarely have issues. It does take a while longer but not noticeably. I like the fact that it is not belching out exhaust and I can mow early or late without disturbing my neighbors. We also stopped using weed killer and fertilizer when we made the switch. Pulling weeds takes most of my time in comparison with mowing.
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Old 06-16-11, 02:41 PM   #5
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I had a reel mower for a couple seasons. You HAVE to be on the ball and never let it get very long, otherwise mowing is absolute hell.

I've switched to a Black and Decker corded electric and it works great, even if I let it get too long. Only issue is cord management. Once you devise a mowing pattern, it's fine.

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-M...8256868&sr=8-2
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Old 06-16-11, 02:51 PM   #6
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I have a Craftsman 18" reel mower... and now that I have fenced in my frontyard, there it actually a spot so narrow that I can't fit it in there to mow and have to weed-whack that area. No debris issues, but the cut is a little long for my taste. I might like to borrow DJ's 14" for the frontyard.
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Old 06-16-11, 05:21 PM   #7
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We have the Chafer beetle in Vancouver, and some people are replacing their lawns with clover. It's much lower maintanence, but might not pack the same aesthetic. I don't have a problem with the beetle yet, but since we probably will, we're adding flower beds, trees, planters, vegetable garden, etc, and just minimizing the lawn. I use a cheap push reel mover.
Chafer Beetle carnage:
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Old 06-16-11, 05:27 PM   #8
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neighbor's kids and hand them scissors.
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Old 06-16-11, 07:18 PM   #9
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Sheep or Goats. Self powered, self guided, and they fertilize your lawn.

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Old 06-17-11, 07:48 AM   #10
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Heh, fortunately for me, I fixed me lawn mower for free, so I can go back to using my gas guzzler. It took me only 6 minutes to mow last night. I will hopefully get a few more seasons out of it before I move to sheep.

(I drenched the carb in carb cleaner and let it sit for a few days. Seemed to have done the trick!)
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