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Ask Rick: How to choose the right lawn mower

What to consider when it’s time to buy
Sault Ste. Marie Heritage Home Hardware lawn and gardening expert Rick has provided his top tips (supplied photo)

As with most product categories these days, there are countless options to choose from. When you need to buy a new lawn mower, whether for the first time ever or to replace one that no longer works, where do you start?

Sault Ste. Marie Heritage Home Hardware lawn and gardening expert Rick has provided his top tips. While it makes sense that most homeowners first consider price, features and brand, they’d actually be better off starting with an assessment of the type of lawn they have. Another factor: how much energy you want to exert. 

There’s a reason that different lawn mowers boast different features. You’ll be cutting your grass often, so choose wisely up front. This will ensure the perfect match between your lawn and your lawn mower. 

Here’s a breakdown of mower types:

Manual Reel Mower

If your lawn is small and flat and you don’t mind a bit of exertion, this old-school lawn mower could be for you. It’s quiet, lightweight, low maintenance and has no engine; it’s also environmentally friendly. It cuts grass cleanly and rolls along smoothly, producing a nice even cut. But be sure to keep a brisk pace as you push it in order to get the best results.

Electric Mower

If you’re concerned about emissions and want a lawn mower that is quiet and dependable, an electric mower may be for you. They typically come with a cord that reaches 100 ft., so you’ll have to be within reasonable distance of a power source to operate it. They’re quite efficient, though they’re definitely not as powerful as a gas mower. If you have tall, thick grass, this might not be the best choice.

Battery-powered Mower

If your lawn is up to 3,000 square feet, a battery-powered mower can do the trick. It’s very similar to using a corded electric mower and has all of the same advantages, but you don’t have to deal with the cord.

Walk-behind Self-propelled Mower 

If your property has a slope or any uneven terrain, it would be wise to consider a walk-behind self-propelled mower. All you have to do is steer, as the engine powers the wheels. Models with front-wheel drive can pivot on a dime, easily cutting around obstacles. If you’ve got hills, rear-wheel drive models work best. Most of these mowers are equipped with variable speeds, so you can adjust the speed according to your preference.

Gas Mower

Most of us are familiar with gas-powered lawn mowers. They’re more powerful than electric and reel lawn mowers and are the most popular model. Their gas-powered engines have 4 cycles and can mow through tough weeds and tall grass with ease. If you have a hilly lawn, a gas mower works especially well as it has more power and even comes in self-propelled models. Of course, we all know the drawbacks: they do create emissions and can be quite loud.

Ride-on Mowers

If your lawn is large—over half an acre—you’ll want to think about efficiency. This is where riding mowers shine as they can do the work quickly. They’re also quite comfortable to ride and are tough, able to handle almost any terrain. There are a number of different models in this particular category, from the most basic to luxury versions. The fanciest even allow you add on a snowplough in the winter!

Other things to consider:

Many wonder what to do after they’ve finished cutting the lawn. Does it make more sense to bag your grass clippings or should you let them be, using them as mulch? 

If you’re a stickler about appearance and want your lawn to be kept looking nice and clean, you may want to consider getting a bag that attaches to the rear or side output of your lawn mower. That may be the easiest way to deal with the problem.

If you want to be able to add nutrients to your lawn while you’re cutting it, you’ll probably want to use a mulch mower. They contain a specialized blade that cuts the grass into fine pieces, which are then recycled back onto your lawn. Those grass clippings sit atop your lawn, helping your grass retain moisture and adding valuable nutrients into the soil.

Those who want a mower with flexibility should consider a 3-in-1 model. This type can mulch, bag and side discharge all in one.

Another great tip when you’re shopping around is to pay attention to a mower’s deck size—a smaller deck size means a smaller cutting width. You may not realize it, but this will affect how many passes it takes to complete your lawn.

Make sure you know which kind of mower is best for your lawn before you commit to making a purchase. It can make the difference between dreading the time spent cutting the grass or enjoying it!

For more information, or to ask Rick’s advice directly, visit Heritage Home Hardware or call 705-759-5101.