New season means new choices for new mowers

May 11, 2010

By David Hayes

Go gas or electric, front-wheel or rear-wheel drive

Now that winter has finally relinquished its grasp on local weather, allowing a transition to spring, many homeowners have probably noticed the grass in the yard has grown out of control since last fall.

This leaves them to answer the question — is their mower up to the task or is it time for a new one?

Homeowners in the market for a new mower have myriad choices when it comes to lawn maintenance. Randy Byrd, floor associate at The Home Depot, lends his years of expertise to help steer potential buyers toward the right mower for the right yard.

The first question Byrd asks is the size of the yard, to help determine whether the homeowner needs a riding lawn mower or a push model.

“It matters if the yard is hilly or flat and if it’s just a 20-square foot patch in the suburbs,” Byrd said.

The general standard, unless you’re looking for extra exercise, is steer toward a push mower if it would take less than an hour. For those with large lawns, riding mowers come in the standard 42-inch deck (the width of the area blades cut) all the way up to 52 inches.

Depending on the job, there are many new mowers to select from. Thinkstock photo

If going with a walking mower, the next decision to consider is push or self-propelled. Byrd said that while propelled mowers are growing in popularity, it still comes down to personal preference.

“Self-propelled mowers are pretty much all standard now,” he added.

So, the choice with propelled mowers is now like choosing options for a car — front-wheel or rear-wheel drive.

“Rear-wheel drive is easier to handle, but isn’t as powerful going up a hill or going through tall grass,” Byrd explained.

The latest trend in motorized mowers is the hydrostatic engine.

“It’s the big thing now,” Byrd said. “There’s no shifting speeds, just like an automatic car.”

Next, there’s the decision to go with the standard gas engine or side with the growing number of owners who choose electric. While electric mowers have been around a while, a growing number are battery powered, so no more 100-foot extension cords trailing behind the mower.

Byrd said even the batteries are getting better each year.

“Most batteries used to last about 30 minutes, but we have one mower with a 48-volt cordless that lasts up to two hours,” he said.

And for the truly conscientious looking for the lowest carbon footprint, the mower market features a solar-powered model. But it’s not readily available at many home improvement stores yet.

For homeowners who choose to stick with a gas mower, Bryd reminds them to change the fuel every so often if the mower has sat idle.

“The gas we use these days has so much ethanol in it, it could ruin the mower if you leave it in too long,” he said.

Newer technology is even reaching underneath with the blades. Bryd said most mowers feature di-cut blades that cut grass on both sides, requiring less change outs during the life of the mower.

Once the mower is chosen and put to use, don’t forget the next step in lawn care — lawn maintenance.

“Organic fertilizer is getting big,” Byrd said. “It still has nitrogen, but no chemicals, making it safer for the pets and for nearby lakes with no chemical runoff.”

Another step he recommends is adding a soil sweetener to the lawn, which reduces the amount of PH.

“A high PH in the soil is the reason so many people get so many weeds in their lawn,” he said. “Adding a sweetener, which has lime, once or twice a year for two or three years can permanently lower the soil PH. The homeowner would never have to use weed killer again on the yard.”

If homeowners still have questions about what’s best for their yard, Bryd said many home improvement stores, like The Home Depot, have a garden club on their website to submit questions and receive easy answers.

David Hayes: dhayes@isspress.com, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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