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An Oldie but a Goodie: Advantages of Reel Mowers

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The progression of technology has provided us many wonderful things in life, from automobiles with heated seats to computers that allow us to instantly share information worldwide and organize our lives. I for one am very grateful for the technology that I use every day to make my life more comfortable, such as the microwave. I don’t think I would’ve survived bachelorhood without one. Many of these technologies claim to make our lives more efficient and, granted, most do. Along with the steady progress of technology it’s only natural that some of our useless technologies fall along the wayside. When was the last time you used an 8-track player or a floppy disk? Except for my visit to an Amish village or my run in with a gypsy caravan in the English countryside, horse drawn carriages have been largely demoted to hauling folks around on sightseeing outings. And who still uses VCRs? 

Old Technology, Timeless Quality

Most of the time these forgotten technologies are better off left to collect dust or to occupy museum displays. But occasionally there comes along a technology that no matter how much it progresses, the original still provides the best quality. One such technology that has stood the test of time is the humble reel mower. Since its invention in 1830, the reel mower has continually proven that even though a technology improves and becomes faster, easier, and more efficient, sometimes less is more. 

Reel Mowers Deliver the Finest Cut

There are several reasons why using a reel mower over a traditional gas-powered mower has its advantages.white tip The biggest advantage is the way reel mowers cut the grass blades. Traditional gas powered mowers use rotary blades that spin like the blades of a helicopter, resulting in grass blades that are chopped, shredded, or torn. This can lead to a condition in grass known as “white-tip” where the tip of the grass blade turns white or brown as a result of this shredding action. This is especially obvious when rotary blades began to dull. On the other hand, reel mowers have blades that lift and cut individual blades just like a pair of scissors. This results in a clean, crisp cut and an overall healthier looking lawn. For a quality cut, there is no beating a reel mower. 

Environmentally Friendly and Low Maintenance

Another major advantage of reel mowers is their impact, or I should say their lack of impact, on the environment. First, reel mowers allow grass clippings to fall back into the soil. This grass mulch acts as a natural fertilizer, returning nitrogen back into the soil. See the blog, The Benefits of Mulching, for additional information on this subject. Since reel mowers are human powered they obviously aren’t dependent on fossil fuels. This not only eliminates air pollution, but can save hundreds of dollars over the years in fuel and maintenance costs. Unlike rotary blades that need to be sharpened on a regular basis, reel mower blades can go years without needing to be sharpened. Another benefit of reel mowers is the lack of noise caused by engines. This allows for mowing at any time of the day without fear of upsetting the neighborhood. Believe me, there is nothing more annoying than a neighbor firing up his lawnmower at 6:30 on a Saturday morning. 

The Drawbacks

reel mower cutting grassOf course there are some disadvantages of using reel mowers. Although modern reel mowers are fairly easy to push, they need to be kept at a constant, brisk pace in order to achieve an even cut. This could be seen as a benefit for some people as it provides a healthy exercise. Also, reel mowers are generally not recommended for lawns over 8,000 square feet since you could be out pushing for a long, long time. It’s also recommended that you don’t let your grass grow too tall in between mowing times since extra-long grass tends to bog down the blades. 

While technology continues its never ending march towards efficiency and convenience, it’s important that we don’t overlook the qualities of past achievements. Reel mowers, while not always practical for every situation, allow us to reconnect to our landscapes on a more intimate level. By removing the roaring engines, exhaust fumes, and complex mechanization every now and then, it’s possible to transform the otherwise mundane task of lawn mowing into a healthy, even therapeutic, landscaping experience.

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