New home? New yard? Start mowing!
Congratulations, you bought a new home with a really nice yard. Now what?
You need to mow that lawn, that's what.
If you've been living in a condo or an apartment before buying your current home, you probably haven't mowed a lawn in ages. Most homeowners think it's easy-peasy — and it is — but there are some tricks to proper mowing that can keep you from experiencing (or causing) major lawn issues in the future. You just have to have the right lawnmower for your type of yard and follow some simple tips on tackling the neverending chore of lawn mowing.
So many lawnmowers, so little time
Google “types of lawnmowers,” and you'll get 21 million returns with bloggers touting 13, 15, and 17 different types of mowers. They're not wrong, but we think it's overkill.
Consumers want choices, so manufacturers have smothered today's lawnmowers with slicker options — and more of them — than ever before.
We're approaching things differently, not listing every bell & whistle you can get. Instead, let's examine the basic types of mowers — and by that, we mean how they are powered. The choices are simple, and they fall into these four categories:
How do you choose? Consider the following key influencers:
- How big is your lawn?
- How sloped is the terrain?
- How much time and effort are you willing to put into this?
- How old are you?
The four main types of lawnmowers
Push Mowers (AKA reel-mowers) are simple and cost-effective. If you're into saving money, have a small yard or not much storage, and want to simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint, push mowers are awesome. And because you're physically pushing it — and depending on the yard size, this can be a workout — not having to deal with gas, batteries, or electrical chords is a big bonus.
Be forewarned, if you have a steep area of your lawn, a push mower might not be ideal, and if you tend to get tall weeds and grasses, know that push mowers might not be the most suitable option. They're best for homeowners who want a close cut, with grasses that are OK with being cut to about 2 inches or less. Regardless, having a push mower can save you at least six months of gym membership, depending on where you live.
If we had written this article 10 years ago, we might have reserved this space for electric mowers. But being tethered to a power cord, even with a small yard, just seemed like we were living in the dark ages. And imagine the stress of running over the electrical cord with a rotating blade? No thanks.
Like push mowers, battery-operated mowers are best used on small lawns, around a 1⁄4 acre, mainly because you only get 20-40 minutes of battery life per charge. To conserve battery life, most of these mowers require you to put a little muscle behind them, but there are self-propelled electrics to choose from. They draw even more energy from the battery, though — that makes them great for sloped lawns but can also reduce how long it'll go between charges. The real love of battery-powered is that they are quieter and more eco-friendly than gas machines, and easier on your wallet.
The most commonly used lawnmowers in the US are gasoline-powered rotary mowers. They're also the most iconic because of their loud engine roar (who hasn't breathed a sigh of relief when a neighbor finally stops mowing their lawn on a summer day?
Gas-powered mowers work equally well on large or small lawns and don't care if it's sloping or flat. They still make gas-powered mowers that you have to push, but really, who wants that? These machines can easily handle lawns up to a half-acre, so give us a self-propelled gas guzzler with a push-button start (no pull chords for us) and variable speeds that we can guide with one hand.
Also called a tractor lawnmower, a ride-on mower is the lazy man's answer to yard work — but they're so much fun! The operator is seated, of course, and the mower will vibrate a ton, so if you opt for this type of machinery, make sure the seat is comfortable — especially if you have a bigger lawn. Actually, these are best for estate-sized homes with huge yards that can take a couple of hours to finish. Many have baggers and mulchers to clear grass clippings, and, overall, most of them are great in any terrain. Easy to steer, they do a great job around trees and garden beds, too.
However, they are l-o-u-d, so invest in some hearing protection. Electric versions are much, much quieter. Also, ride-on mowers are expensive, so expect to throw down $2,000 – $3,000 for one that lasts. But if you have a large lawn and you'd rather not walk it every week, it's money well spent. One last thing, avoid one of these if you don't have ample storage to keep it out of inclement weather. You'll want to baby it, for sure.
Mow like a pro with these three tips
- Don't overdo it – There's no set rule for how long after one lawn mowing event you should wait before doing a follow-up. Variables like the type of grass and your climate will weigh in heavily on that decision. Professionals agree that you should mow grass often enough so that you never need to cut away more than a third of the blade of the lawn to keep it happy and healthy.
- Don't scalp it – Again, cutting off more than 1/3 of the height is a huge no-no. Many homeowners think cutting the lawn lower will make it so that they have to mow less often. Instead, a scalp job leaves your property predisposed to weeds and makes it less able to survive a flood or a dry spell. Regular mowing actually helps your grass grow thicker and makes the roots heathier.
- Skip a rainy day – Never cut wet lawns. First, when the grass dries out, you'll notice all sorts of uneven patchiness. Second, wet clippings can clog your mower, and leftover clumps will block sunlight, causing lawn die-off. Third, it's dangerous. The saying “slippery when wet” applies to lawns, too — especially if your property has hills and valleys.
We hope you enjoy your new home. And your new yard. And if you're looking for other ways to make your place more beautiful and amp up the curb appeal, check out these nine ways to rethink DIY home improvement projects.