Mowing is a Sunday morning ritual for millions of front and backyard gardeners. The smell of fresh cut grass and the joy of a crisp looking lawn can make a quiet Sunday that much better.

The only negative in this scenario is when you find yourself a little bit worse for wear after a large Saturday night, and Mr. Collins next door decides to start up his 2-stroke at 7am. Why doesn’t he go motorless?

When shopping for lawn mowers, it essentially comes down to two choices – push-reel and powered.

You’ll be familiar with the classic push-reel from the rusted out thing that you dug out from behind your parents’ shed that one time. A motorless machine that relies on your forward momentum to drive cogs that then drive cutting blades, these mowers have had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years.

As for powered, these are the purring machines that most of us will hear doing their work on a Sunday. Whether they be petrol-fuelled or electric, the blade movement comes from the engine and all you’ll need to do is put it on the patch you need cut.

So what are the pluses and minuses of our grass cutter options, and what would best suit your situation?

Push-Reel Mowers

In the pros column, push-reel mowers are cheap. Even if you were to go for something fairly high-end (and this is certainly recommended, as your blades and mower will last longer), push-reel mowers are still generally cheaper than the cheapest powered option.

The greenie within will be pleased, as a push-reel has a post-production carbon footprint of approximately zero, and noise pollution is also a non-event. On top of this, your lawn will also be thankful. The way push-reel blades slice results in a far cleaner cut in your grass, and the turf has to put in less effort to repair itself.

There are some cons,however. While push-reels are generally surprisingly efficient, they do tend to miss a few blades here and there which may trigger some perfectionists’ OCD. The time to mow a patch may jump by up to 50%, turning a 20 minute mow into a 30 minute slog.

They also have trouble with anything that isn’t turf. Any stray twigs and yard debris may jam the machine and dull the blades. You want to make sure you have a well-raked backyard before you pull the mower out.

Powered Mowers

The pros of using a powered mower are somewhat obvious, and why they got to be such a seller in the first place. They make mowing quick and easy. You pull a cord and chew through your lawn as quickly as you can push, and you get a complete and even mow every time.

The powered mower requires minimal thought and concentration, and will happily chew up anything in its path. There’s no need to revisit patches as you can be confident that nothing will have escaped the blades in the first run.

Ease of use is a hard upside to pass-up, but for those looking for quality work, a powered mower’s cons may be enough to swing them. The way a powered mower cuts means that rather than a clean slice being made, the blade of grass gets mashed. This often results in a browning of the turf, and the grass can take longer to grow back, and be not as healthy when it does.

The other main detractor is cost. The initial outlay for a powered mower is already far higher than a push reel, but then you have to take into account the ongoing costs – fuel, upkeep of the motor, blade replacement– which will result in a long term bill that is far greater than the low, one-off cost of a push-reel.

When you go mower shopping, ask yourself if you’re not only willing to pay for convenience, but if you’re willing to forgo a perfect lawn for it as well.

If the answer is yes, go a powered mower. If the answer is no, why not join the push-reel brigade? Your lawn and your neighbours will thank you.


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