Exploring The Benefits And Features Of Reel Mowers

A farmer can never have too many lawn mowers. Even an old-fashioned manual reel mower can offer a variety of advantages over their motorized counterparts.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

A farmer can never have too many lawn mowers. In addition to keeping things looking tidy, they’re important for maintaining yards, fields and pastures in optimum condition. String trimmers, riding mowers, brush hogs … they all have their places and purposes.

Read more: These 4 mower types will help you keep your farm tidy!

A Manual Machine

But what about a good old-fashioned manual reel mower? Sure, they might seem outdated. But manual mowers actually offer a variety of advantages over their motorized counterparts.

Consider the following:

  • Reel mowers require less maintenance. Since they don’t have engines, they don’t require refueling or oil changes.
  • Reel mowers are easier to use. As soon as you start pushing, they’re mowing—no engine startup required.
  • Reel mowers are quiet. No engine, no noise; just the subtle sound of the blades slicing away.
  • Reel mowers are good for the environment, and they don’t produce smelly engine exhaust.
  • Reel mowers cut vertically in scissor-like fashion, producing cleaner, healthier cuts compared to rotary mowers like string trimmers, riding mowers and brush hogs.
  • Reel mowers can often cut grass to shorter heights than other types of mowers.
  • Reel mowers are good exercise. Pushing the mower around your yard definitely burns more calories than steering the wheel of a riding mower.
  • Reel mowers can be maneuvered into small and tight places where larger mowers can’t reach.

Read more: In this video, we show you how to sharpen the blades on a reel mower.

Get Reel!

I recently purchased a reel mower and have put it to good use this spring. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense machine that’s easy and convenient to use. It’s a good fit for the garden, where it can travel between garden beds and keep things tidy without bringing in a string trimmer mower.

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If you’re convinced you need to add a reel mower to your toolshed, I won’t disagree! But before you buy the first model that catches your eye, here are a handful of key questions to keep in mind when shopping:

What is the width of the reel mower?

The width of the mower will impact how quickly you can mow a given area. A reel mower with a cutting width of 18 inches will cut 50 percent more grass per swath than a 12-inch mower. This saves you a lot of time.

But it might not save you effort, since the larger mower may be heavier and less nimble than the smaller model.

Is the cutting height adjustable?

Some reel mowers allow you to vary the cutting height for optimum results under varying conditions. Consider how tall you would like your grass to be, and look for a mower offering the range you need.

If you have your heart set on trimming your grass down to half an inch tall, but the mower you’re considering has a minimum cutting height of one inch, you’ll want to seek a different model.

How many blades?

Does the reel mower have four blades? Five? Seven? 10? Depending on the grass you’re cutting, more isn’t always better.

As a general rule, the number of blades should increase as your desired cutting height diminishes. If you’re cutting tall grass, and leaving it a couple of inches high, fewer blades might do a better job.

Of course, a reel mower won’t be ideal for every mowing job on your farm. They’re most effective when used to mow small areas on a regular basis. They can struggle with grass more than a few inches tall, and you’ll struggle if you attempt to mow whole fields with a reel mower.

But this goes back to our opening point—a farmer can never have too many mowers. It’s all about finding the right tool for the right job. When put to use under ideal conditions, a reel mower can be a quiet, effective and useful addition to your toolshed.

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