Last week I acted on a long-time urge, and bought a Scotts 20-inch reel mower. These human-powered mowers are making a comeback, due largely to a desire to be “green.” Frankly, the only green I’m interested in is the green in my wallet. With the price of gas pushing four bucks a gallon, one can make a pretty good argument for needing more exercise pushing one of these babies around the yard.
The technology is a major improvement over the older reel mowers from generations past. Assembly was a snap — I was mowing less than thirty minutes after taking it out of the box. The cutting height adjustment is very easy to change. With two sets of wheels, it is stable and rolls easily across the grass.
To be sure, this is a human-powered mower, requiring a steady output of energy to propel. I enjoy walking, so I got plenty of that, but it’s definitely not a casual stroll in the park. Our yard is almost an acre in size, so it took me about six hours to finish the job. That’s not counting the frequent breaks to catch my breath. Still, at the end of the day I was tired, but in a good, that-was-a-great-workout sort of way.
Two negatives, neither of which is a mark against this model. First, reel mowers are notoriously inefficient at cutting weeds, especially tall ones. It was a little irritating to look back over a large area of freshly mowed lawn, and see a wide spread of dandelion stalks still standing proudly. The reel mower simply pushes them over, and they pop back up after the mower moves on. (I guess that’s a good incentive to implement a weed control program.) Second, it’s more difficult to keep a reel mower pointed in a straight line than my riding mower. I eventually developed a knack for it, but it requires much more focus.
But those are minor points. There are several positives: To mow the yard with my riding mower requires fifteen minutes of prep work: air the tires, fill the gas tank, check the oil, etc; with this reel model, I simply start mowing. There is almost nothing to break down (which is more and more frequent with my rider). I get a lot of good exercise. And there is something calming about walking behind a mower that is quietly depositing a gentle cascade of clippings at your feet.
Will I do all my mowing with this new toy? No way. The yard is simply too big, and I have too many other projects to tend to, to spend that much time just mowing. But I will likely continue to use it on areas close by the house.
If you have a small yard, I would definitely recommend this as a viable option.