I have a new small bordered lawn about 10x6m. I'm currently using an old electric rotary mower I had lying around and it does the job but the cord is a bit inconvenient and it's on its last legs.

It's such a small lawn I'm loath to buy an expensive mower for a 5min job and am wondering about a simple manual cylinder one. But do they give a decent cut, all other factors considered?

1 Answer 1


Except for the six years when I lived on a couple of acres, I've been using a reel mower (manual push mower) since 1987 (and before that, I used one as a kid). I find no problems with the cut, especially since they've improved the mowers over the past 10 years or so. You won't be able to cut it to the 7.5cm minimum recommended, but I usually cut mine to 5-6cm or so.

Reel mowers cleanly cut the blades, while rotary mowers often shred them, which is why most golf courses in the northern US use large banks of reel mowers for their fairways (not sure what they use in warm-season areas). A good reel mower is not inexpensive, but there is little maintenance other than annual or semi-annual sharpening, which isn't much of a problem, and you get a nice workout while mowing. And given the size of your lawn, you probably can get by with a less-expensive model - just make sure you get one that's easily height-adjustable.

One important point to note is the type of grass you'll be cutting - the finer the blade, the more difficult it will be to cut to 5cm + length (the finer grasses can flop at that height). If you have bluegrass or a healthy mix of bluegrass,ryegrass and fescue, you should be fine.

There is at least one poster here who'll give you a completely different opinion - whom you believe is up to you :) To bolster my case : http://caltrimmer.com/products/features/reel-vs-rotary-comparison/ and https://www.toolboxgeeks.com/reel-mowers-vs-rotary-mowers/ (notes that rotary mowers have mulching possibilities - an excellent point), and here - another old guy's opinion (but he's from the UK, not the US): https://betterhomesteading.com/homestead-garden/lawn-care/manual-push-reel-mower-vs-electric-rotary-mower/

  • I guess the USA and UK have different ideas about lawns, but in the UK 4 cm would be the maximum height for the first cut after winter and 2 cm would be typical for a " good but not perfect" lawn. For a top quality lawn with fine grass species (and high maintenance, admittedly) you would be mowing to 1 cm. Of course shorter mowing also means more frequent mowing - maybe twice a week for a really top quality lawn. A cheap hand cylinder mower in the UK typically adjusts from 1.5 to 4 cm.
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 9:57
  • Oh wow, that IS different than the US. One cm might be the height of a putting green in the US. We used to mow shorter (probably to about 3 cm or so) and relied on either boy-power or chemicals to kill the weeds. The idea behind the taller cut is to try to shade the weed seeds from germinating and to out-compete those that due sprout. Also helps keep the lawn from losing too much water too quickly, since rain isn't as reliable as it used to be in many parts of the US.
    – Jurp
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 10:54
  • 2 Centimeters!?! We cut only when lose the Pomeranian in the grass when she goes out to do her business. ;-)
    – B540Glenn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:53
  • I guess it might be simply that Americans have, on average, much bigger lawns (or yards I think?) A small show lawn is typically cut very short whereas a larger one can be kept longer and look good.
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 17:42

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