Tips on using and enjoying this classic machine

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Whether you look forward to getting outside and mowing your lawn every week or dread it as a necessary chore may depend not only on your attitude, but also on your lawn mower.

“People who use gas mowers put up with ear-splitting noise, headache- and nausea-inducing fumes and mechanical problems,” says L Hundley, owner of Clean Air Gardening. He prefers the serenity and simplicity of old-fashioned reel mowers. “There is a real element of pleasure to using a manual mower,” he says.

Today’s reel mowers are a far cry from the one your grandfather used. “Reel mowers are light, quiet, and virtually maintenance-free,” notes Hundley. The mowers are environmentally friendly, and also better for your grass. “Rotary mowers tear the grass — reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard,” he explains. They do take some effort, but they aren’t any harder to push than an 80-pound gas mower that isn’t self-propelled.

While it does take a bit longer to mow with a manual mower than a power mower, it is a much more pleasant experience. Instead of the roar of a mower, you hear the pleasant mechanical sound of the blades, the chirping of birds and buzzing of insects. Instead of the smell of gas exhaust, you have the smell of fresh air and fresh-cut grass.

A manual mower is best suited for 8,000 square feet of grass or less. “If you live on a half-acre lot or smaller, then a manual reel mower is a very reasonable choice,” says Hundley. “But if you have more grass than that, then it’s going to be too time consuming for the average person.” Hundley says that if it typically takes someone 45 minutes to mow their lawn with a power mower, they can expect to spend 60 to 70 minutes doing the same job with a reel mower.

Hundley shares these tips for getting the best cut with a manual reel lawnmower:

1. Walk at a good, steady pace. With a manual reel mower, you are the engine; the mower will tend to bind up and skid if you walk at a snail’s pace. So get moving at a comfortably quick walking pace and youíll get the best results.

2. Overlap your rows. This will make the mower a bit easier to push because youíre mowing less grass, and it will also help catch any spots you might have missed on the previous row.

3. Experiment with different mowing patterns. Different types of grass and different lawns have different growing patterns. The direction in which you mow can make a difference in the quality of the cut.

4. Don’t let the grass get too tall. Manual mowers are harder to push when the grass gets too tall, so keep your lawn mowed weekly.

5. Experiment with your cutting height. Once you’ve looked up your type of grass and know the recommended cutting range, try different cutting heights to find which height makes the grass easier to cut and which height gives you the best cutting results.

6. Embrace imperfection. Grass is a living organism. It’s not carpet. If you miss a few blades of grass and they’re sticking up in the yard, move on. You’ll get them next week.

7. Mow early. This is one of the neatest advantages of having a reel mower. You can get up at the break of dawn and mow, and you won’t wake your next-door neighbors. Take in the cooler morning temperature, listen to the birds, enjoy yourself.

Clean Air Gardening sells two brands of reel mowers, Brill and Scotts. “We considered dozens of different models before deciding to only sell these two,” says Hundley. “The Brill has the advantages of lighter weight and a longer sharpening interval. The Scotts has the advantages of a lower cost and higher maximum cutting height. Both do an excellent job cutting the grass.”

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Other information about using reel lawn mowers:

Don’t forget to read the general guide to using a push mower on the front page of the site.