The first run with our new push reel mower dubbed “Mister Persnickety.”
Last week, I found myself in need of a new lawn mower, and considering that gas mowers spit out as much pollution per hour as driving 250 miles in a car, I was ready to make a change.
While rechargeable electric lawn mowers are very cool, I also hate the noise, dust, flying projectiles, and that pesky little risk of cutting my foot off – not to mention that around here, electricity is produced by burning coal. So, amid groans from everyone I’ve told so far, I headed out to buy a hand-powered, push reel mower.
Buying a Push Reel Mower
There were three models to choose from at my local garden center.
Mower assembly was a snap!
For my purposes, the lightweight 14-inch wide model was too narrow, and the behemoth 20-incher was too heavy; but the 16-inch, 27-pound Scotts Elite – a perky little green number – was, as Goldilocks would say, “Juuuuust right.”
Assembly was a snap – literally. A few wing nuts, snap the handle in place, and you’re ready to go! The mowing height is adjusted by moving two screws (no tools needed). Blades come pre-aligned, but adjustment instructions are included. Within 10 minutes of getting home, I was ready to mow, and cars were already slowing to stare.
Push Reel Mower Review: Snip by Snip Analysis
I ran the mower through a series of tests to determine the overall performance, as well as mowing on slopes and at various speeds. Since lawn mowing is a personal thing, I wanted to monitor the satisfaction level of different users, so I had Matt (another resident gardener) come out to put in his two cents’ worth – and besides, somebody had to sprint up and down hills while I took photos!
Pros: “This Ain’t Your Granny’s Push Reel Mower.”
Sharp enough to shred paper!
If your only memories of push reel mowers involve shoving around a heavy, rusty, dull-bladed antique; then think again!
Push reel mowers today are:
- Lightweight and easy to push.
- Very sharp!
- Easily adjusted for mowing heights from 1/2” to 3” (depending on model).
In addition, push reel mowers offer:
- Zero emissions!
- No Fuel Costs: Other than a few burned calories – and if you’re like me, you have plenty of those to spare.
- Healthier Grass: push reel mowers cut cleanly, unlike rotary powered mowers, leaving grass that is never ripped or torn.
- Fewer Allergies: Since there’s no dust cloud and the grass clippings fall straight down, cutting with a push reel mower is a relief for allergy sufferers.
- Self-Paced: Fast or slow, uphill or down, push reel mowers are pretty consistent, so you can mow at your own speed.
- Delightful Experience: After a lifetime of hauling around noisy, stinky, dangerous lawn mowers, this is like a tea party with cloth napkins. No start-up, no exhaust, no pollution, no projectiles, only a delightful little scissor-snipping sound that evokes happy memories of haircuts and quickly earned the mower the nickname of “Mister Persnickety.” You can hold down a conversation while you mow, or listen to music, or simply enjoy being outdoors.
Cutting the grass with a push reel mower is a blur of eco-friendly activity.
Cons: “It Ain’t a Self-Propelled Lawn Dominator, Either.”
Expecting a push reel mower to perform just like a gas mower is like expecting a bicycle to perform like a Harley. While our obsession with overkill is what got our planet in this jam to begin with, the push reel mower:
- Leaves Grass Blades: The overall effect is a little shaggier than I was used to. As Matt said, “It’s like its mother said that if any blades of grass give it a hard time, just ignore them.”
- Requires Pushing: If your current mower is self-propelled, a push reel mower will be harder to push. If your mower isn’t self-propelled, using a push mower will actually be much easier.
- Can Jam: Twigs and stones bring the push reel to a screeching halt, unlike a gas mower which imbeds them a half inch into your calf.
- Overgrown Areas: Weedy and overgrown laws are too much for a push reel mower. If you’ve been out of town for a month, you’ll probably need a power mower to get things back under control.
The finished product. A push reel mower isn’t perfect, but much more fun.
Push Reel Mowing in a Nutshell
I love this mower! Push reel mowing is a civilized, earthy experience, and the self-reliance and zero emissions are a no-brainer in my world. I’ve mowed the lawn twice now, and both times I finished up in about the same amount of time as with a gas mower; but I’m clean, pleasantly tired (but by no means worn out), and not bleeding.
The overall effect is not a pristine carpet, but take it from this dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist: if you experiment with embracing imperfection, you’ll find that it’s actually kind of fun.