Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eco-friendly lawn mowing

Ok. Confession time. Little miss Simple-Green-Frugal still uses a gas lawn mower on the yard (or what's left of it now that we've put so many raised beds in). But it's time to correct that glaring error and we're looking for a solution to our gas-guzzling ways. I mentioned letting the grass die and covering it with gravel instead, but Dave didn't sound too pleased with that option. So I'm on to plan B - an eco-friendly mower.

Of course, we have a couple options here:
  1. A reel mower
  2. An electric mower
I had a reel mower 100 years ago (ok, maybe not that long ago) when I lived in Indiana and didn't think it was such a big deal. I didn't then, nor do I now have a large yard and to be honest, I enjoy the wonderful exercise lawn-mowing provides. A huge positive about the reel mower is that it's pretty inexpensive, running in around $100 for a good one. But...

Our local power company is offering vouchers for $150 off an electric lawn mower which would bring the price of the electric mower down close to the cost of the reel mower. What to do? What to do?

Does anyone out there have an electric mower that you REALLY like and would recommend? Same for the reel mower? What have you found are the plusses and minuses of both?

And for you locals... Want to take advantage of this offer? Here's what the ad says in the BTU newsletter:

$150 Off Electric Lawn Mowers!

The Texas Municipal Power Agency is making available vouches to customers or residents of Bryan for promoting purchase of a corded or uncorded electric lawn mower. Each voucher is worth $150 and is available at Sears. Be sure to take your current drivers license or your BTU bill. Vouchers are available on a "first come, first serve" basis and limited to one voucher per qualified purchaser. A total of 113 vouchers are available. This voucher program will end mid-August 2009 or when all available vouchers are used, whichever occurs first.

Better move fast before those vouchers run out...


philip said...

I have one of these that I got off of Woot! last year:

Neuton CE 5

but I do slightly lament, particularly under the middle-of-summer hot Texas sun, the smaller desk size (14" cutting size) in comparison to what I had before (25" cutting size) and I had idly pondered finding a buyer for my current one and upgrading to the larger version (19" cutting size):

Neuton CE 6

At least, if it weren't for how much more expensive the larger one is...the purchase being on Woot! last year is a large part of what made even the smaller one doable on price.

Your reminder of how cheap the reel mowers are had me take a look and I see the $100 reel mower is a very respectable 20" cutting width. Now I just wish I knew someone with one so I could play with one for a little while to prove its practical utility to me before changing again.

Kate said...

We have an electric lawnmower we inherited when our gas mower died a year ago. My mother had purchased it with the intent to mow the lawn herself, a delusion that only lasted two weeks!
We (or I should say my husband) loves it compared to our older gas model, with one exception. He gets irritated with cord. I would look for a model that has something on the handle that allows you to switch the cord from side to side. He has to pick up the cord and throw it over the lawnmower.
It takes a little getting used to but once you have the pattern in your yard down they are so much better than gas mowers. Although I like the idea of reel mowers,the reality is for yards in Oklahoma (even a 'small' yard) it would take forever!

Kelly S. said...

DEFINITELY go cordless...or you will be mowing and repairing/replacing your electrical cord about added costs!!

Ruthie said...

If you only have a little yard, like we do, we're getting by with an electric weed eater, it was only $30 and does a decent job of getting around my trees and raised beds. Not exactly gorgeous yard, but we plan on replacing most of the grass anyway. PEACE!

Glenda said...

We have a gas mower and a reel mower. Neither our front nor back yards are very big.

I like using the reel mower, as long as the grass hasn't gotten too tall -- I'm short and it's hard to get good leverage behind the reel mower to push thru taller grass.

With the reel mower, you need to be sure there aren't sticks in your mowing path -- sticks will jam up the blades like nobody's business. It's easy to pull them out, but it's easier to just walk the yard beforehand and pick them up before you start mowing.

The biggest drawback for me to using the reel mower is that I usually end up cross-cutting the yard to get a nice cut and not have "wild hairs" sticking up all over the place. Cross-cutting our front yard at a leisurely pace takes me about 45 minutes; our backyard takes about 15-20 minutes. (Ironically, it doesn't take half as long when I use the gas mower and only go across each area once. Go figure!)

Holly said...

heather, i do all the yard work at my house and i have a craftsman 19" deck mulching corded electric mower and a ryobi electric trimmer with all the attachments (weed-eater, edger, tiller, blower/vacuum) which is also corded. and i love both. i had the trimmer before the lawn mower so i was used to the cord. both work great and we have had normal size city residential yards. people used to say our old back yard was big and it had no problems there. both are so easy to use. i love both because i can start them no problem. when my husband was recovering from brain cancer he wasn't strong enough to start our old gas lawn mower so i knew when it was time to get a new one, i wanted electric with an easy start. what i have learned with mowing with a corded mower is you have to figure out a pattern so that you are mowing in lines that don't cross over your cord. i start at one side and work my way to the other so i am working away from the cord. i don't know if that explanation paints a picture of how i do it, but i don't have any problems with the cord. i bought one of those cord reels and put a 100' cord on it so it's easy to reel it back up. my old neighbor had a cordless one and he had to charge it a long time to be able to get his yard done in one job but i say if it dies and you have to charge it that just means you get to take a break. also, he didn't let his grass get so tall that the mower couldn't handle it. neither did i. and if i did, i'd just adjust it all the way up, which is easy, go over then lower it. but i rarely let that happen. another nice thing about it is that it's only a little louder than a vacuum cleaner so i can mow early in the morning when it's cooler and not have to even think about waking up my neighbors. yes, i'm that nice of a neighbor. i think my corded mower is the best thing i could have bought. it's super easy to use.

Heather @ SGF said...

philip - The reel mowers (at around $100) are really tempting, aren't they?

My sister-in-law saw my post on Facebook and told me to check with my brother Jared who used one just a few years ago. His only complaint was that you just can't let the grass get very long or the reel mower won't work. Since I'm at home most of the time, that shouldn't be a problem. Unless we go on holiday...

Thanks for the links and reviews of the Neutron! Sounds like a cool mower and I definitely think I'd prefer cordless.

Kate - I'm thinking the cord would drive me nuts too. There are cordless versions, but they are a bit more expensive. Thanks for the advice!

Kelly - I'm thinking the same thing. Thanks!

Ruthie - I'd love to be able to get away with just a weed wacker. Of course, if we end up covering the rest of the backyard in veggie beds, we may have to do that anyway. For now, we definitely need a mower, but I'll be dreaming about your tiny yard... :)

Glenda - Thanks for the advice. It seems pretty easy to just wander around and pick up random sticks before I mow, although I'll have to be particularly careful around the area where we turn the compost bin. There's no telling what's lurking there! Question for you though... What do you mean by crosscutting?

Holly - I know exactly what you mean about ease of starting things up. The gas mower we have not only has a pull cord, but it also has a rechargeable battery for a key start. Needless to say, I always use the key. It's really nice to have that option!

So, you don't get frustrated dragging the cord around the yard?

Kristin said...

I would love a reel mower, but we received our current gas mower as a house-warming gift from the in-laws three years ago. So, dh is a little attached to it. Maybe with our next home. Keep us updated and let us know what you go with!

Trish said...

Hi, I just purchased a Craftsman reel mower about 3 weeks ago. I have raised garden beds and my boys would blow grass clippings into them when they were mowing our 5 acres. Now I can mow around my garden so they don't have to mow near it. Like others have posted, you must not let the grass get too high or it won't go in between the'll just run over it. Also, I can't get right up next to anything, so I still have to weed eat right next to the boxes. I got mine used for $30 at a garage sale, so I thought I'd try it out. I like that I can mow in some areas that our big mower won't reach and I don't have to wait for anyone to do it...I can just toodle over to wherever needs a little trim.

Anonymous said...

Hey -

I have a reel mower and a rechargeable electric mower. I hate the reel mower. The shriek of metal blades rubbing over the cutting blade is awful (I bought it because these things are supposed to be QUIET!?!?!) and of course, if you are a day late in mowing, the grass is too tall and it is useless.
The rechargeable electric came from Lowes - the first one we bought died after only a month. Reading reviews of it, I find there are known issues with the charger, so it may have been a bad charger, not a bad mower. Regardless, we took it back for an exchange. Have had the 2nd one for over a year now & have been very happy with it. I have a fairly small yard, and it is able to cut the whole thing on one charge, no problem. It isn't nearly as noisy as a gas mower or that stupid reel mower - it sounds like a big box fan - and does a good job of cutting (tho if you let the grass get really long it will bog down a bit). Being rechargeable is nice - no cord to drag around!!!

Heather @ SGF said...

Kristin - Sure thing!

Trish - Very cool! Out yard grows unevenly and I was thinking the reel mower would be less cumbersome to bring out to do some light spot mowing.

Anonymous - I REALLY like the idea of no cords. I biked over to Sears this morning though and the cordless ones range from $400-450 on sale. That means that even with the $150 coupon, we're still running $250-300. Yikes! About your reel mower... was it new or used?

Anonymous said...

Heather - Yikes! Cordless electric $450 on sale? I think I paid $300 for boyfriend paid half. They've probably raised the prices due to demand. Bummer. No, you can't have mine! ;-)
As for the reel mower - it was new. Guess I should've looked around more for a used one and taken it for a test drive. If you (or any of your readers?) have advice on what to do about the noise, I'd love to hear it, as I'd like to be able to use it without having my eardrums shattered. I've read so many articles describing the "soft whirring of blades" that I'm sure there's just something wrong with the one I have. But I don't see a way to reposition anything. Maybe take a file to the blades? Or if you want the thing, maybe we could work out a deal...I'm going to need some help for some yard work this fall - ripping out a lot of mostly dead St Augustine & replacing it with a more xeric landscape doesn't require so much watering!!!

Heather @ SGF said...

Anonymous - We're toying with the idea of ripping out our grass and going with something that's more for this climate. A friend will be experimenting with Buffalo grass and we're waiting to see how it goes :)

Good luck with the xeriscaping and let me know how you like it!

Mac said...

When you own property, it’s easy to overlook how much work lawn care can be and it’s something that is not always factored into the routine maintenance. It’s easy to assume that you’ll have an area that requires little lawn maintenance.

lawn mowing Saugus ma