So the expensive Toro mower I bought a year ago decided to go on strike. Unfortunately, Toro’s "Guarantee to Start" is only as good as the place that looks at it.
In my case, the authorized service center charges a $62 bench fee, did its best to convince me the problem isn’t covered under warranty (they can’t nail Toro for a $62 bench fee, of course), AND they won’t look at it for 3 1/2 weeks.
So what do I do when I have a jungle growing in the front yard and the neighbors are getting irritated?
Say hello to Mr. Reel Mower.I called around a lot, but the local hardware stores either didn’t know what I was talking about, or they laughed. But on This Old House, Roger Cook said the new reel mowers aren’t bad at all. I hit the web, and saw that Home Depot carries a 16-inch mower in the store, and Lowes carries a 16- and a 20. I went to Lowes (I’d rather support local business, but I needed a mower NOW) so I went, plunked down $150, and brought home a 20-inch reel (manual, human powered) mower.
It’s not so adept at hacking through jungle. I found the best thing to do with tall blades was to make multiple passes from different directions and angles. By the time I did my front yard, my 33-year old arms and legs were tired.
With reasonable grass, it’s easy. It takes a little longer than a gas powered mower because it isn’t as wide as a gas powered mower’s cutting deck, but makes no more noise than my electric razor, doesn’t die on big clumps of grass or uneven ground, and it doesn’t cost anything to run.
Eventually I’ll get the Toro fixed one way or another, but the reel mower will take care of me in the meantime. I may not like it in August, but in cooler weather, it’ll cut the lawn without chewing through $4 worth of consumables every time.
Reel mowers also cut the grass, not just tear the tops of the blades off the way a rotary mower does. No gasoline burned, lower carbon footprint, some exercise, a quieter neighborhood, and lawns cut this way looks better as well. It’s a win all around.
Well, I can remember doing my grandparent’s front lawn this way, way back when. It’s doable, IF the lawn is relatively small, and the back yard is devoted to vegetable gardens; small fruit (brambles, currants, strawberries); melons, zuccini, squash and pumpkins; fruit trees; and maybe flower gardens as well – and a small courtyard and barbecue area to sit and enjoy it all. But zero to minimal lawn. My grandparent’s was. Yours is as well, isn’t it, Dave?
Of course, the more gardens you have out the front, the less mowing, as well. You can get some mighty ornamental plants that are edible as well, too. Rainbow chard and kale, chilli peppers, nasturtiums, edible celosia (*censored*scomb), day lilies, grain sorghum (foliage isn’t safely edible, but the plant with seeds is ornamental, and you or the birds or the squirrels will benefit from the seeds), some of those zuccini, many more.
No gardening anymore. I’ll probably take it up again at some point but with working 6 days a week there just isn’t time for it. My back yard grows a lot more slowly than the front so I may be able to get away with the reel mower out there, at least until I can either coax the Toro into running or find an honest shop to get it going again.
It doesn’t take much gardening to plant zucchini, pumpkins, squash and melons. Once they get ahead of the surrounding vegetation they shade out the competition and provide their own mulch. Climbing beans and cucumbers against the fences are easy too. Maybe your wife could help with a garden too – why not ask her if she’d like to?
And the way the grass has been growing (read: the way it has been raining), you may have to do it twice a week, or find that every week you are crosshatching to get everything cut. (At least, that’s true of my lawn and reel mower.)
The front needed a cut again last night. So while my wife was rocking our son to sleep on the front porch, I whipped out the mower and cut the front yard. It didn’t take long, I wasn’t sore afterward, and the noise didn’t bother him in the least.
I think some of my neighbors think I’m nuts, and they’re probably right, but not because of my lawnmower.