I have this mower. It worked great last year, but this year it's left my lawn looking like the photos in this album. Believe it or not, I mowed that grass yesterday (not even 24 hours ago).

It is definitely cutting, and cutting a lot (most of the grass is the right height, it's just those long shoots that are persisting). I had the blade set to about 2.5", the notch shorter than what I did last year (an attempt to rectify the problem after the first unsuccessful cutting). I typically only cut when the grass is dry, though it's been raining 3-5 times a week, so I'm usually cutting the 24-48 hours after the last time it rained, but the grass has definitely been dry when I've cut it.

Is this normal for this type of mower? I didn't see this last year at all. Are these just weeds I need to manually pull? Is it the frequency of the rain and the fact that I can't get a day or two of non-rain before I cut it?

Why might this be happening and how can I fix it?


4 Answers 4


If grass is too long when you take a reel mower to it, it just folds over. This is made even worse when it is thick. After making sure the blades are sharp, you will probably just need to take multiple passes at it.

We own two reel mowers and the way we know we need to sharpen one is when the same grass responds like that on one mower and normally on another. But I wouldn't let the grass get that high. (Yes, I know that's a frustrating challenge when it keeps raining and the grass keeps growing.) The key to success with reel mowing is to do it often. I find that easy enough to do because the mower is light weight and easy to use, so I can do one bit of lawn that's getting long without full on Mowing The Lawn as some kind of production - I just mow the part that's getting long. (We have an acre and a half, but only about half it is lawn.)

If it won't stop raining and the grass won't stop growing and when you get to it, it's like that, well you just keep going over it. Go in opposing directions, that may help a little. When it stands back up, go take another pass at it. Don't worry about what's a weed and what's grass. It all needs to get cut. For more tips, see https://gardening.stackexchange.com/a/5014/754

Update: I was super frustrated with my reel mower yesterday because it was doing that same thing you asked about. I was going over and over the same ground and it would produce clippings, but the lawn still looked unmowed. I sharpened it (which took about an hour) but the result was the same. But while interacting with the reel to sharpen it I came to realize that the "cutting bar" - the straight thing the reel blades need to contact with to slice the grass like scissors - needed to be raised at one end. The blades were not contacting it on the entire left side of the mower. The grass was not getting cut because the blades were not touching the bar. I adjusted the bar and presto! When I mow a piece of lawn, it stays mowed. Adjusting the bar is much quicker than sharpening so check for that first.

To check, put the mower on its back and spin the reel (carefully) with your hand. If it moves really easily and then a bit stiff, really easy and then stiff, look closely at the bar. Are the blades touching along all the length of the bar as they turn? If not, find your instructions and adjust it.

  • 2
    +1 for noting that reel mowers are just scissors with one set of multiple rotary blades cutting against a single stationary blade. If you've cut heavy cloth with loose scissors, you know all about the material folding between the blades instead of cutting. Grass, same thing, there must be a contact point to "shear" the material being cut. Commented May 26, 2013 at 20:03

You should not set the blade lower when it gets this long, set it higher and just try not to let it get to bad until the rain stops. The grass is thicker the lower you go so it binds up even quicker. At this point you are probably going to have to go over it twice in a row. I would hit that once at 4.5 and then again at 4. Reduce that by a quarter to half inch each week until you are at the height you want. Just try to stay on top of it now because if it gets much more carried away then you will have an easier time weed wacking your whole lawn in oppose to using that reel mower. You may want to consider hiring a company to come in once just to bring it to a more managable height. Aside from the patch work, Nice lawn.

  • Agreed! Also remember the 1/3 rule - don't cut off more than one-third of your grass at a time. So if it got away from you and got up to 9 inches tall, try not to cut it lower than 6 inches (because that's totally a normal setting on a reel mower)
    – Silt Loam
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 20:35

I agree with the previous poster - you just let the grass get too long for the reel mower between cuttings. When I had a reel mower and that happened, I just used a gas mower to get it cleaned up, and then made sure to cut more frequently with the reel mower to maintain it. Could you borrow a gas mower from a neighbor for a quick cleanup?


Sorry to revive an old thread but I believe I have something relevant to the OP's (and other reel mower users') problem.

You can take down the the long shoots by replacing a reel mower's blade reel (blade cylinder) with this.

enter image description here

This blade system still cuts via a shear contact point but the radial nature of the spinning blades allows them to push past long shoots without pushing them down to the ground.

I made a post on how you can build one here

Pretty sure you can have one made in your home workshop.

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