Choosing the Right Lawn Mower
Lawn Mower Choices
Rural dwellers can offer loads of reasons for living out in the country: growing their own food, the peace and quiet, privacy.
Mowing grass usually isn't one of them.
"Nowadays, the biggest thing our customers want is to mow fast; they just don't have a lot of time to spend on the grass," says Wayne Swisher, of Swisher Products, maker of mowers, trimmers, and other lawn and garden accessories.
"We often hear from people who've moved out of the city. They have a beautiful, big acreage of 2 or 5 acres or more, and they're complaining about having to spend the whole weekend mowing," he says. "We let them know there are solutions that can speed that process up."
The key: finding the right mower for the job.
Ideally, the best lawn mower for a big job is one with a wide deck, a swift ground speed, and lots of maneuverability. But the features of your particular property must also be taken into consideration.
"There are obviously certain obstacles that come into play in addition to the size of your acreage. Those include steep slopes, yard ornaments, yard gates, and trees — and how close they are together," Swisher says.
"Another important consideration is how often you are going to mow. That tends to be a little different for our rural customers than for those in suburbia."
Rural landowners tend to treat the area around their home as "the yard" and the rest "more like the back 40," Swisher says.
"They may keep the yard manicured, but the rest may just get mowed once a month or every other time, and that grass tends to get thicker, taller, and unmanaged at times. It becomes a whole different animal."
One that requires durable machinery.
"When an area goes unmanaged long enough, briars and other tough growth starts to come up, which means a different selection needs to be made at that point. Then you are in need of brush-cutter type equipment," Swisher advises.
Push Mowers are the usual choice for the manicured lawn or any grassy area that receives regular attention. Quickly gaining in popularity are zero-turn mowers, which pivot on their rear wheels to allow the front end to easily swing around corners, tree trunks, and other obstacles.
"Wide turns are not efficient; you waste a lot of time," Swisher says, adding that some property owners have told him they cut their mowing time in half by using a fast zero-turn mower with a wide deck.
Trail mowers and trail cutters are efficient for larger open areas or those with higher grass and brush. These models are pulled behind a regular riding mower or an ATV.
"Pull-behinds mow substantially faster than any lawn tractor," Swisher says.
"Some even have an elbow hitch that allows you to angle it to the side, so you can put it to the side of your lawn tractor and be cutting twice as wide and mowing fast."
Hitching a trail mower to the back of your ATV is just plain fun, Swisher says. "And it helps some people justify the cost of an ATV."
Before choosing a mower, do your research, Swisher advises.
"Not all lawn tractors or zero-turns are created equal," he says. "Some perform better on slopes. Some are going to cut taller, thicker grass more efficiently. Ask a lot of questions, everybody wants the customer to get what's right for them."
By Renee Elder