May 28th, 2004
A Reel Mower

Yes, I really preferred a lawnmower to cut flowers. I’m just that kinda girl.

As a combination Mother Day’s/birthday present, I got a reel mower, which arrived yesterday. After a bit of research, including going to look at some at Breed and Home Depot, I decided on American Lawnmower’s 1815-18. It is supposed to work best on our coarse St. Augustine grass and it has the highest blade level. (As summer progresses I mow higher and higher, so that the leaves of grass shade its roots.) We purchased the mower on sale at When the UPS man delivered it, he was so excited. “Look what I brought you. Man! I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid. I can see what you’re going to be doing this holiday weekend.”

The only assembly required was to attach the handle, which we did in about ten minutes. Then I was out cutting a swathe through my sward in the twilight. The reel mower is lighter than my old gas-powered mulching mower, and it has larger wheels. So pushing it is not only easy, it’s actually easier. I feel very smug indeed.

* no need to buy gas or motor oil
* quiet (I can listen to the iPod when I mow)
* no gas fumes (healthier for me and everyone)
* cuts grass with a neat swipe which reduces brown edges
* doesn’t throw rocks; I’m not afraid of hitting something that’s going to puncture me as I mow
* easier to start (just push)

* doesn’t mulch
I relied on my old mower to mulch leaves on the spot. Not only did this save me the trouble of raking them, but it fed the grass and improved the soil.
* can’t handle woody-stemmed weeds in my “wild” garden
* can’t set the blade as high as on my mulching mower.

Update: 2007-11-06

After three years I decide that I really need a mulching feature on my mower and buy an electric mower to replace it. I give my reel mower to a neighbor.

by M Sinclair Stevens

3 Responses to post “A Reel Mower”

  1. From Rantor (Austin):

    I love my mower, too (from Sears, 30 years ago). Now that the chainsaw place near the Tips works is gone from downtown, EcoWise will sharpen. I wrote a long comment that disappeared, and this will be much shorter. Raking and sweeping for the compost pile are “leaf chi” and very peaceful also. And if you do edge and don’t have these tools, you might enjoy a non-mechanized rolling-blade edger (Sears and probably Home Depot are sources — the diamond-shaped serrated blade still works after all these decades), along with edging shears (still available with long handles for those to whom it matters) for touch-ups. At least now there’s one other person in town who knows the True Joy of Mowing and how easy it really is . . . with sincere congratulations from your fellow happy mower, Jane Kellogg (of Rantomat and Austin del sur).

    I love the whirring sound it make as it swishes through the grass. I’m glad you read that I got this mower. I’ve kept your words in the back of my mind since you left a comment on the last posting I did about my lawn. I wanted to say, “See…I really, really was planning on getting a reel mower all along.” I don’t edge my lawns (I’m a far cry from being that tidy, in or out of the house!) I’ll just have to wait until fall to see how the raking will go. — mss

  2. From Rantor:

    I love it that it’s so quiet that mowing can be done as soon as it’s light enough to mow, before people are awake, and it won’t disturb them.

    AJM had fired up the grill and I began mowing the back lawn, talking to him over the gentle whirring of the blades. It felt great to be home and back to our normal chores. Then over the new fence our neighbor started up his gas-powered mower. The deafening noise ended our pleasant moment in the garden. Waves of oily exhaust wafting over the fence finally drove me inside, my yard left half-unmowed. — mss

  3. From William Hyland:

    For those of us with lots of St Augustine to mow, a push mower is impractical. Unfortunately, the two-cycle gas powered mowers, which are relatively cheap, also pollute and then there is the gas/oil mix mess. Yuck. In April I bought one of the new Black & Decker rechargeable battery-powered mulching mowers. It was offered for 20% off by the Texas Clean Air fund, which is trying to get people to replace their polluting gas mowers. With this new mower there are no gas fumes or mixing. Just plug it on overnight and you are ready the next day. It is also NOT self-propelled – but people-propelled. My lot is a little less than 1/3 of an acre and it is a workout – kind of like going on a stairmaster for 45mins. So cutting the grass is now good for my heart, and not bad for the air.

    Well, I do have St Augustine grass. The only problem I have is that blades of St Augustine tend to stick out in all directions. I think the action of the reel mower is designed for grass where the blades stick straight up. I find that I have to go over the same section from different directions if I want it to look neat. But because the reel mower is ligher and faster to push, it doesn’t take me any longer to mow the grass than it did with the gas-powered mulching mower. I do miss the mulching action of my old mower, especially now that the leaves are falling. — mss