Yard work can often be a chore, especially when you are using the wrong equipment. You want to choose lawn care equipment that is best suited for the size and terrain of your yard. Many people also want to consider the price, brand, features or specific retailer they wish to use. Walking into a store, the options can be overwhelming, that is why it is important to do a little research before purchasing your lawn care equipment.
Manual Reel Mowers
Reel mowers work best for small yards since they require the most effort to operate. They are old-fashioned style lawn mowers with a spinning set of metal blades that rotate as you push. There are many benefits to choosing a manual reel mower; no engine, quiet, dependable, low-maintenance, and environmentally friendly. Reel mowers are a good choice for someone with a small yard that they regularly maintain since tall weeds are easily rolled over.
Walk Behind Mowers
These mowers can be powered by either gas or electric engines. They work well on small lawns and can be used for medium lawns as well, but may involve more effort. Walk behind mowers are available in push or self-propelled models. Push models require more work but use less power, while self-propelled models use the engine to move the mower wheels forward.
- Gas mowers require you to refuel, which is an additional cost. Gas powered engines are also noisier and emit more fumes. You also need to be sure there is adequate oil in your gas engine at all times.
- Electric mowers are a quieter and cleaner alternative. Some are powered by cords, which can limit your range and get hung up on any obstacles in your yard, but you can also purchase a mower equipped with a lithium-ion battery. The benefit of electric mowers is that there is no gas or oil required to keep them running.
You may notice that self-propelled mowers come in:
- Front-wheel drive (FWD) – good for flat terrain, the wheels in the front pull the mower forward and allow you to easily tip and turn the mower as needed.
- Rear-wheel drive (RWD) – good for hilly terrain, with the rear wheels pulling forward there is more traction in the center of the mower to move up and down hills.
- All-wheel drive (AWD) – since all four wheels are helping to move your mower forward, AWD works well in both flat and hilly terrain.
Best for larger lawns since they can be cumbersome for small lawns with many corners or obstacles. Riding mowers help you get the job done at a quicker pace than a walk-behind and also require less effort on your part.
- Rear-engine mowers are often more maneuverable for small and medium sized lawns.
- Lawn tractors are heavy duty and work best when you have an acre or more to mow.
- Garden tractors are the next step up from lawn tractors, they are wider and they often accept attachments that can help with yard work in all seasons. Keep in mind when purchasing that the mowing deck is often sold separately.
- Zero-turn models are usually preferred by landscaping professionals because of their ability to turn on a dime and handle more rough or sloped terrain. Zero turn radius tractors work really well in yards with lots of obstacles, like trees and shrubs, to mow around.
Handling Grass Clippings
There are several options for dealing with the clipping left behind while you are mowing. The choice of how to handle the clippings is based on your preference.
- Side-discharge mowers direct clipping back onto your lawn. Once they are dispensed back onto your lawn, it may require some raking.
- Bagging systems are designed to collect the clipping as you mow and eliminate your need to rake. Bagging systems often add time to your mowing since you need to empty the bag when it is full.
- Mulching mowers are designed with special decks that contain the clipping and cycle them back through the blade to be cut down even smaller and distributed back onto your lawn as mulch.
String Trimmers, or Weed Whackers
If you think that your lawn care stops at mowing, think again. There are a few tools you still need to finish the trimming, edging and cleaning up after you are finished mowing. When choosing a string trimmer, you want to weight the strength of mower you need to complete the job against the amount of strength you possess to operate the tool. You can buy the most heavy-duty string trimmer on the market but it will do no good if you throw your back out each time you attempt to run it. Consider which type of string trimmer might work best for you.
- Gas powered trimmers are the most common choice. They come in two-cycle and four-cycle models with two-cycle models being lightweight yet strong enough for typical yard work.
- Electric trimmers can also be either corded or cordless. A corded model can be a big hassle when caring for your lawn. Newer electric models have all of the power of a gas trimmer. If you choose all cordless electric lawn equipment your batteries may be compatible, which means you can charge one while using another and never lose time.
- Modular trimmers cost more up front than a typical trimmer because they allow you to add attachments like leaf blowers, edgers, and pole saws. The ability to add attachments will save you money on separate equipment in the long run.
Glossary of more options:
- Amperage (amps): on a corded mower indicates the power output, higher amperage measurements mean more power.
- Automatic parking brakes: on zero-turn-radius mowers improve the safety and conveniently activate when you move the lap bars forward.
- Blade break clutch: Stops the blade from spinning but allows the engine to keep running. Allowing you to empty the grass collection bag without needing to restart your mower.
- Comfort features: some riding mowers come with features suited to your comfort, like cup holders, armrests, lumbar support, extended leg room, or rubber foot pads.
- Cruise Control: allows your engine to use one speed for long, straight stretches.
- Cut width: indicates how wide a strip of grass your mower will cut in a single pass. Your cut width is directly related to the number of blades on your mower.
- Deck wash port: connects to a garden hose to help clean the underside of your cutting deck.
- Deck wheels: help maintain mowing height over uneven terrain
- Dual-battery system: on a cordless, electric mower this will extend your cutting time
- Dual- or Single-level height adjustment: makes changing the height of your blade much easier than adjusting the cut leveler at each wheel.
- Engine displacement: (measured in cubic centimeters or cc) Describes the size of the cylinder in the engine. A higher cc measurement means more power.
- Engine horsepower (HP): measures the available power output of the engine. This power is distributed among mower components like blades and transmission.
- Engine torque: (measured in foot-pounds) the force that keeps the mower blades spinning, higher torque offers a better cut in tall or thick grass.
- Large rear wheels or Front caster wheels: both make your mower more maneuverable.
- No-prime engine: allows you to start your mower more quickly and easily
- Single-speed or variable-speed: (on self-propelled mowers) allows you to set your own pace, you can control the speed of some mowers with either hand.
- Speed: the rate at which your tractor is able to move, measured in miles per hour (mph). Speed will vary by model.
- Turning radius: describes how tightly your mower can make a turn. A smaller turning radius means it is able to cut sharper corners.
- V-twin engine: (on a tractor or zero-turn radius mower) will provide more power than a single cylinder engine. A V-twin creates fewer vibrations, creating less wear and tear on your equipment while providing a quieter, more enjoyable ride. This engine will also run cooler and burn fuel cleaner to extend the life of your mower.
- Voltage (V): on cordless mowers, indicated the power output, higher voltage means more power.
Take some of the extra work out of your yard work by choosing the right equipment.
Caring for your lawn doesn’t have to be daunting if you have questions or you’re interested in enlisting help: