Short story long…
When I was a teenager, I lived out in the boonies in a little town outside of Philadelphia. My parents’ house had about four acres worth of field to mow which became my chore when I was fourteen or so. Anyhow, we had this Farmall tractor built in 1933 that had a rusted-out clutch that controlled three gears, those cartoonish tiny wheels in the front, enormous (four feet in diameter) wheels in the back, and a mower that towed behind it. It was a death trap and was traded in for a more modern Ford tractor that was built in 1949… thing still works. Anyhow, by the time I was sixteen, I had done enormous damage to the field, my sister’s Walkman (containing one of my all-time favorite albums, Faith No More’s Angel Dust), as well as my own body. Within two years, I was not allowed to mow the lawn anymore and needed to find new sources of income. This was 1996.
Fastforward to 2013, I have not mowed a lawn in the seventeen years since, mostly due to the fact that one of the privileges of urban living is the lack of yard work. Now I have the tiniest lawn to care for. It’s about twenty feet wide and five feet deep. I tried mowing it with a weed whacker, but I ended up destroying wide swaths of turf because of my unruly handling. I’m in the process of regrowing grass in the divots I’d created and have thought that perhaps a weed whacker is not my forte. In the meantime, the grass surrounding the divots has grown to an unruly ten to twelve inches, which brings me to my query:
I’d thought one of those unpowered “reel mowers” would be great, but I now understand they are awful for lawns that look like the Serengeti. Does anyone have any opinions one way or another regarding reel mowers? Will they only work on short turf? Please keep in mind that I am unmanly and accident-prone. I’d have my wife mow the lawn, but she is even unmanlier and more accident prone… in sixth grade, she was a power-drunk safety-patrol who ended up breaking the thumb of a “perp” she was chasing down. This does not bode well for either of us.
Thanks for your time, Arlingtonians,
A small reel mower is perfect for your small yard. But, as you mention, the grass has to be kept at a manageable length. With reel mowers you may need to mow twice a week instead of once a week at times (if rains a lot and grass grows fast). For now, either weed wack down to six (?) inches and use a hand grass trimmer to get down to three. And then use reel mower. Or pay a neighborhood kid to power mow the yard once.
The best time to seed will be towards the end of Sept (after summer heat). Put down seed, cover with 1/4 inch of soil, water seed to keep damp (not wet) (once or twice day depending on weather).
I had a reel mower for years when I had small lawns in two different homes in Alexandria. It cut the lawn really well and was good arm exercise. You do have to sharpen the blades at least once a year or take it to a place for sharpening. You can just drop it off and they can call you when it’s ready. I recommend doing this in the winter months when you are not using it. Some reel mowers might be self-sharpening these days. It will not cut the length grass that you currently have. You will need to trim that down and then use the mower. Reel mowers are lightweight, easy to carry around and easy to store; even if you don’t have a garage (I didn’t). It sounds like this is exactly what you need once you get the grass cut to a manageable length.
When I was old enough to mow parents small yard, Dad sold his gas mower and bought a Scott’s reel mower. Worked great! We used to run a steel wool pad over the blades after each use. Guess to keep them “sharp” for next time. Likely an old wives tale?
@Hank, ALL,,,,,,reminder: Consumer Reports on line is free with an Arlington Co Library Card. Good info about reel mowers.
Hey Dezlboy and Sunshine,
Thanks so much for your input! I’m going to use your suggestions and get the lawn down to a manageable length with the weed whacker and buy a reel mower to use here on out. Much appreciated.
Also, good to know about using Consumer Reports with my library card! I had no idea this was an option. Does this also work with magazines like Juggs?
Have a good Labor Day!
1. The link to all the magazines that are provided in “real life” format using Zinio software. https://www.rbdigital.com/arlingtoncountyva/service/zinio/landing
2. Consumer Reports magazine is also accessed here in (I think) an easier to use format. http://library.arlingtonva.libguides.com/ConsumerReports
3. I thought the library also offered the CR.org web site (maybe not). Just an easier way to find information.
I’m still searching for the Library link to the 3-D virtual Juggs issues.
If possible, just get rid of the grass altogether and replace it with (a native) groundcover and maybe some beds with small shrubs. No more mowing, and it will look alot nicer than a sterile, heartless patch of green.
Another reel mower owner checking in. I also bought mine when I moved into ARL as I had a small lot. I had an electric, but the extension cord was such a hassle! I was intrigued by the thought of a reel mower, and after reading some online I finally bought one at Home Depot. I have to say that I’ve been THRILLED with the experience. It’s supposedly healthier for the grass as it is supposed to truly CUT the grass whereas traditional mowers are said to “rip” the grass. But it’s no more work to use than a traditional gas or electric. Although you’re totally right – you DO have to stay on top of it as the reel mower won’t work if it gets too long. Once a week has always been fine for me, but if schedule or rain preclude that I break out the electric again to get it back under control.
Oh, and the absolute best thing about owning a reel mower IMHO is that they are nearly silent. Which means you can go out and mow your grass in the 6:00 hour at the break of dawn in the summer while it’s nice and cool outside without your neighbors hating you. Then you sit on your porch and sip lemonade while they sweat buckets in the afternoon with their powered ones.
Sansabelt (aka, “Bizarro Nova Steve”), I have to ask – why is grass “heartless”? Did you consider that maybe he likes grass? Or has a dog that likes to play on the grass? Or that groundcover and shrubs offer more habitat for mosquitoes than does grass?
To answer Hank – reel mowers are awesome. As long as you sharpen the blades, that thing will work great. No gas, no fumes, no noise and decent exercise.
Grass (or more precisely, a lawn) is heartless because it’s a boring artificial monoculture. That’s my opinion of it, and I’m just suggesting he consider it. If he likes grass, fine, but I’m just suggesting he think about things a different way, that’s all.
Why not mow peasant style? Think of Lenin and get out that sickle.
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