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Many baby boomers remember their fathers mowing the lawn with a reel mower. When power mowers came out, reel mowers were left to rust in garages and garden sheds. Now that the baby boomer generation is going green, reel mowers are coming back into vogue.
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Why Use a Reel Mower?
Reel mowers are quiet, light, and environmentally friendly. Reel mowers don't tear your grass like rotary mowers. They cut it like scissors, which makes for a healthier lawn. They're largely maintenance free and don't blow carbon-filled exhaust back on you. An obvious cost saver is that they don't use gasoline or oil.
A common misconception is that reel mowers are hard to push. Modern reel mowers are better designed than the old clunky antique models and are as easy to push as a much heavier rotary mower.
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How Reel Mowers Work
Reel mowers have blades on a revolving cylinder. The reel is moved by pushing forward, or pulling backward, which brings it into contact with the bed knife. The bed knife is a stationary bar, parallel to the ground, which holds the grass up so that the reel can shear it off. Reel mowers can be adjusted to different heights by raising or lowering the reel.
Reel mowers, by virtue of their shearing action, are able to cut lawns shorter than rotary mowers. Golf courses use reel mowers for this reason. The reel's shearing action cuts cleaner than a rotary mower blade, and leaves finer grass clippings, but not as fine as a mulching mower.
Blade adjustment is a critical element in getting a proper cut. In order for the grass to be cut properly, the bed knife must be carefully adjusted. It cannot be too close to the blades, or the reel will hang up on the blade. Leaving it too far away will make a ragged cut. With a turn of the adjustment screw or bolt, it's simple to keep the reel properly adjusted.
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All About Reel Mowers: The Greenest Lawn Mowers Want to really green your lawn? Use a reel mower to mow your lawn to be environmentally friendly, save money and get exercise!
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How to Get The Best Cut With Reel Mowers
Just remember that you are the engine. The blade turns as fast as you walk, so moving at a comfortable, but quick pace will keep your mower from binding up, and get the results you want.
Overlapping your rows slightly will make the mower easier to push because you're cutting less grass. In addition, it helps to catch any missed spots on the last row.
Different grasses have different patterns, so experiment to find out exactly which mowing direction works best on your yard. Also, experiment with your cutting height to see which gives you the best results.
One great advantage to reel mowers is that they are quiet, so you can mow at the break of dawn, and not disturb the neighbors. Mowing your grass as early as possible will give you a better cut.
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Disadvantages of Reel Mowers
Reel mowers don't cut tall weeds well. In fact, if your lawn has weeds over six inches tall, the mower will roll right over them, so if you have a weedy lawn, it's best not to use a reel mower.
As long as you mow weekly, it will go very easily, but reel mowers don't mow tall grass well. When you're cutting very tall grass, you'll probably have to mow back over it in several directions to get it all cut.
However long it takes you to mow with a rotary mower, add 25 percent to that. It does take longer to mow with a reel mower. If you have a yard with more than 8,000 square feet of lawn, a rotary mower is going to be your best bet, unless you just like spending several hours a week mowing.
There are cordless electric reel lawn mowers available, but they can be expensive to buy and maintain, so if cost is a large consideration, you would do better to leave them out of the equation.
If you have a normal sized lawn that isn't weedy, and don't mind taking a little longer to mow your grass, then a reel mower is probably a good way for you to reduce your carbon footprint.