Author Topic: How to make muscle power work in the yard?  (Read 2659 times)

patrat

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How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« on: June 28, 2015, 01:41:19 PM »
For the past year I have been living in a rental house that has a half acre lot, most of which is covered in a natural weedy lawn. This is a rainy state, and the lawn grows quickly and thick in season, despite not watering or use of chemicals. The only attention the lawn gets is in the form of cutting it back with mowing, trimming, and edging.

I picked up a muscle powered reel mower off of Craigslist cheaply. It is a modern unit, in good shape. (Husqvarna Novocut). There are better ones out there, but this was cheap to try out the idea. I tuned it in just right with feeler gauges and keep it lubricated. I have the height set as high as it will go.

My problem is, most of the mowing season it does a very poor job on the yard. Due to the design of the mower (and almost every reel mower I have examined) stems such as dandelion, plantain, and any grass in seed simply get bent over before getting cut. Due to this, I had to make about 4 passes, twice weekly, on each portion of grass. This was a huge time suck. I realize that an alternate model of reel mower may have an incremental improvement, but it seems the overall paradigm would be the same. A reciprocating sickle bar push mower seems like it would be the answer, but I have yet to find one outside of a youtube demo of an antique.

Begrudgingly, I fired up the conventional gasoline push mower, and get the job done in 1 hour rather than 4. Even with a dull blade, the results were better. I plan to sell it when I move and invest in a quality cordless mower (EGO or whoever is best by then), but for now the conventional, noisy, gas burning one is on-hand.

Trimming the fence edges has been a similar experience. Not owning a string trimmer initially, I stayed committed to muscle power. I used a lawn shear to trim the portions I could not get with the reel mower. However, this ended up taking 3 hours a week. The yard just isnt worth that much of my time. I got a quality cordless string trimmer and am much happier with the results and time expenditure.

Edging along walkways actually works well with hand tools.

How have those of you committed to the ideal of muscle power made it work? I have considered alternate landscapes or livestock-as-lawnmowers once I own a home, but for now the paradigm must be to cut the grass in some method. Have I missed the proper method, and it is possible to maintain a property this size by hand for less than a full day of effort per week?

Cranberries

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 02:21:55 PM »
Would it work better if it were set to cut the grass shorter? How sharp are the blades? My experience of reel mowers is that they work best for maintaining grass at a really short height.

forummm

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 02:37:18 PM »
I use a corded electric mower with a 100 foot cord. It works really well for me and <$200. I've had it for 5 years now.

Kaplin261

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2015, 02:41:29 PM »
Watch some youtube videos on how to sharpen those blades. I think if the blades were properly sharpened you should be able to cut in one pass. I would also recommend cutting twice a week during the wet seasons, you should only be cutting off 1/3 of the grasses length about 1.5 inches.After every use clean,give a quick sharpen and spray with wd40(WD40 prevents oxidation making the blade dull). A 5 minute sharpen may save you 2 hours of unnecessary re-mows.

patrat

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2015, 03:34:35 PM »
Regular grass or broad leaves do cut in one pass, unless they get tall enough to violate that 1/3 rule, in which case they will jam the reel. To maximize the number of days between mowings without violating the 1/3 rule, I set the mower height to max. The high mower height also helps with the bumpy yard.

 However, there is a large proportion of stems, that is what takes the multiple passes. Chemicals or super aggressive hand weeding could remove the dandelions and plantain, however I view them as part of a healthy natural yard. I also feel the sickle bar would happily chop these down, but I am not going to reinvent it. I guess the proper problem statement is:
Is it possible to use a muscle powered mower to cut a lawn that has a large number of stem type plants? If so, what equipment and technique to use? Every reel mower pushing website I have found states that a reel is unsuitable for large, bumpy, or weedy yards... but I am stubborn! IF I can get the reel to cut as effectively as the powered mower, I am happy to invest in one with a wider cut path to speed things up. My reel mower does work effectively during the times of year where the plants are not sending up stems for flower/seed.

I have gone very slowly to observe the action, and the problem appears to be that the mower has a frame piece that goes in front of the reel. This knocks into the stems and lays them flat, and the reel does not touch them as I push it over. If I hand position the stems back vertical, they are cut by the reel/knife. The stems will go from freshly cut to overly tall in the course of 2 days. Going back to cut the stems with the string trimmer would be similar to mowing the whole yard with the string trimmer. Perhaps cutting lower would give more inches of stem growth before they hit that front frame piece?

The corded electric mower has been tempting. The speed increase of the battery power points me in that direction, if I do invest in an electric option. Ultimately the droids/livestock will mow for us, but that is a ways off.

forummm

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2015, 03:38:08 PM »
It sounds like you're spending a lot of time out there. I have a 1/3 acre and spend about an hour or so once every 2-3 weeks. I don't care what my lawn looks like, so it grows a little long (but not terrible) before I cut it. The electric handles it well.

I would stay away from the battery option because the batteries degrade overtime and you'll start having trouble where it runs out halfway through and you have to wait hours until it's charged again before you can finish. YMMV.

Kaplin261

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Re: How to make muscle power work in the yard?
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2015, 06:15:47 PM »
Regular grass or broad leaves do cut in one pass, unless they get tall enough to violate that 1/3 rule, in which case they will jam the reel. To maximize the number of days between mowings without violating the 1/3 rule, I set the mower height to max. The high mower height also helps with the bumpy yard.

 However, there is a large proportion of stems, that is what takes the multiple passes. Chemicals or super aggressive hand weeding could remove the dandelions and plantain, however I view them as part of a healthy natural yard. I also feel the sickle bar would happily chop these down, but I am not going to reinvent it. I guess the proper problem statement is:
Is it possible to use a muscle powered mower to cut a lawn that has a large number of stem type plants? If so, what equipment and technique to use? Every reel mower pushing website I have found states that a reel is unsuitable for large, bumpy, or weedy yards... but I am stubborn! IF I can get the reel to cut as effectively as the powered mower, I am happy to invest in one with a wider cut path to speed things up. My reel mower does work effectively during the times of year where the plants are not sending up stems for flower/seed.

I have gone very slowly to observe the action, and the problem appears to be that the mower has a frame piece that goes in front of the reel. This knocks into the stems and lays them flat, and the reel does not touch them as I push it over. If I hand position the stems back vertical, they are cut by the reel/knife. The stems will go from freshly cut to overly tall in the course of 2 days. Going back to cut the stems with the string trimmer would be similar to mowing the whole yard with the string trimmer. Perhaps cutting lower would give more inches of stem growth before they hit that front frame piece?

The corded electric mower has been tempting. The speed increase of the battery power points me in that direction, if I do invest in an electric option. Ultimately the droids/livestock will mow for us, but that is a ways off.

I have a natural yard, as a hobby I have started investing time and money into perfecting the art of perfectly green fescue yard. The front yard is tiny at only 2,000 sqft so I installed a irrigation system just for the front. I lime and overseed twice a year. The weeds are about gone . You don't have to use herbicides to get rid of weeds, just create a environment better suited for the grass. I do not use fertilizer or chemicals on my yard.